A couple of months ago, on one of my Darkest Nights (those being the nights when depression gets the best of me) I did something so spectacularly ill-judged, I still shudder to think about it.
It’s not as exciting as you might think, but it is relevant to this first Project Emmanuelle post (welcome, by the way – I’m sure we’ll figure out a point to all this somehow). You see, I thought it would be A Good Idea to search Netflix for so-bad-it’s-good movies, thinking that watching one could lift my mood. I am, after all, a card-carrying member of The Cult of The Room, so I figured it was a sound idea.
In retrospect, Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Diana was not in the least the right choice.
Plenty were the times I had to ask ILB (who is older than me and can remember more about those days than I can) if the things that were happening on screen were liable to have actually happened. Watching Di turn up at a chicken shop at three in the morning to meet with her lover, for example. Or Naomi Watts’ earnest delivery of the words “I’ve been a mad bitch”. Even now, as I’m writing this, I can’t really believe that this is a film we both sat through voluntarily.
It’s much the same feeling I had when, after a fairly decent streak of Emmanuelle films, ILB told me we needed to watch Emmanuelle in Rio. Not because he’s a fan, no. On the contrary, here are my soft-porn aficionado boyfriend’s own words on the matter.
I’ve mentioned Rio on this blog before, and I think it’s a fair assumption that I don’t like it. It’s confusing, messy and lazy; there isn’t any sex and what there is isn’t always very sexy, and worst of all, there’s an incredibly boring narration over the top of most of this thing by Ludmilla Ferraz, who for some reason is playing Emmanuelle – and never does so again. Which is a good thing, too, as this woman is so incredibly boring that it’s difficult to stay awake, even during the sex scenes, which are also boring.
But, as he told me, it would be good to watch in the interest of getting a complete picture of the history of the series itself. And, more importantly, in the interest of getting a 90 minute masterclass in how to absolutely fucking not make an Emmanuelle movie.
To paraphrase the great Latrice Royale, this is some romper-room fuckery right here. So, come with me as we dissect the recipe for Emmanuelle-related failure, with a sunny Brazillian backdrop.
Emmanuelle in Rio
Directed by: Kevin Alber
As Emmanuelle: Ludmilla Ferraz
Other cast: Hoyt Christopher, Simone de Morais, Francielle Soares, Juliana Batista …
Series: None, as this was the only film made with Ferraz as Emmanuelle (and judging from what I could find about her online, the only film made with her in it, ever).
The plot, as per IMDb
Beautiful fashion photographer Emmanuelle (Ludmilla Ferraz) arrives on the beaches of Brazil for a shoot where she’ll be working with some of Rio’s top supermodels. While on the job, Emmanuelle catches the eye of a music video director, and before long, the two embark on a steamy romance.
“My name is Emmanuelle. And I am in Rio.”
Let’s establish a couple of things first. As you and I will explore over the coming weeks and months, Emmanuelle is nothing if not a sex-positive hedonist, preaching pleasure through both words and deeds anywhere she ends up. She enjoys sex, enjoys helping other people learn how to enjoy sex and is a general good sort with a decent sense of humour. In general, this is a theme you will see in most of the incarnations – for now, we’re not yet bringing Sylvia Kristel’s original into the picture.
Emmanuelle is also an engaging, flirty narrator. Someone you’d genuinely feel comfortable spending some time listening to. Someone who wouldn’t judge others for their sexual adventures. And, naturally, she practises what she preaches and has steamy encounters of her own.
Got that? Good.
Because the first mistake Emmanuelle in Rio makes is the fact that Emmanuelle herself has exactly ONE sex scene in the entire movie. One. Right there, at the start, as Emmanuelle (who is, for the purposes of this movie, a fashion photographer either sent to or already in Rio for an assignment) is doing a photo shoot with a male model. Not only is it an incredibly drawn-out lead-up to the actual sex happening, it’s also accompanied by Ludmilla Ferraz’s voice-over. And this is mistake number two: Ludmilla Ferraz narrates with the enthusiasm of a professor droning their way through a university lecture on the history of the sofa. While tripping on Novocaine.
So, this charisma vacuum of an Emmanuelle only has the one sex scene, despite the introduction of Harry later on. Harry, played by Hoyt Christopher, is the director of a music video Emmanuelle is helping out with. I’m not entirely clear on whether they’ve actually met and hooked up before this, or whether this is the first time they encounter each other. Not that it matters as Harry is only there to be shouted at by Emmanuelle, because the script clearly forgot that she’s meant to be a nice sort. They make up various times, mostly through the medium of some footage of them going to a late night carnival party – footage which is used again later on. The same footage.
Problem three, you ask? Apart from the whole filming of the music video, there’s bugger all in the way of plot. Or other sex scenes. There’s an attempt at a plot in which one of Emmanuelle’s friends has a crush on the guy whose music video they’re filming, but he seems to not give her the time of day. And there’s also an attempt (an even vaguer one) at a plot involving Danielle, the daughter of an unseen character or something, I don’t know, who comes to stay with Emmanuelle because she could do with mentoring or whatever.
Seriously, it’s that vague.
Danielle opens the door to a man named José, who has come to speak to Harry about the video. Who this dude is exactly is of no relevance to anything, as he is never seen or heard of again. All he’s there for is the sex scene that follows, one that is partially accompanied by Emmanuelle’s voice-over going off on one about Danielle’s “hopelessness in the ways of love” and her being a disappointment.
The great icon of sexual liberation and hedonism ends her voice-over by informing us that Danielle is behaving like a common whore.
Oh hai thar, mistake four.
If you want to read about the sex scene between Danielle and José, ILB did a wonderful analysis of it in one of his Soft Porn Sunday columns. And to be fair to it, it’s just about the only interesting thing in this entire film. It’s not sexy, not in the least. But it’s kind of fun? I guess? I mean, it’s more fun than Ludmilla’s voice-over, or the other subplot which goes nowhere until the end where it turns out that the singer guy actually did notice Emmanuelle’s friend and thought she looked like an angel and they have sex and he sings a song for her.
Then again, being stuck in traffic is more fun than this movie. Much like watching Diana…
End notes (or: “what have we learned”)
As you will see in the coming months, there are a few basic traits that carry through in the various incarnations, as I mentioned earlier. None of them are to be found here, as this Emmanuelle is not only wildly damaged by the shoddy script and mauling of the character, but is also played by someone who is visibly having no fun at all.
Because of that, the one sex scene she does have doesn’t spark. Ferraz’s scenes with Hoyt Christopher, even the ones where they’re fighting, are devoid of life. The subplots go nowhere, fast. There’s a sort of but not quite explored thread in which Harry brings up the subject of Emmanuelle joining him back in the States, but Emmanuelle dismisses it as him wanting to “possess her”. Which is not really the vibe I’m getting from Harry’s demenour (if you’ve ever seen Hoyt Christopher on Sexcetera, you’ll kind of have an idea of what Harry’s like) but ‘bokay.
Emmanuelle has fun in life and in sex. Sure, she may have her solemn moments, but at the end of the day she still finds joy in sexuality and in helping others find their inner hedonist. In Rio, there isn’t any fun. There’s just the endless drone of that flippin’ voice-over. That and the utter disbelief at what’s been done to this character.
PS – Apologies for the poor quality of the pictures. These were the only ones I could find that had anything at all to do with the movie and weren’t part of a screenshot collage.