There is an image that’s often found floating around the internet which, if I think about it, describes both the Natasja Vermeer Emmanuelle films and the Brittany Joy Emmanuelle films. It’s the one at the top, but with Dorothy standing in for Joy and Vermeer being portrayed by Alice.
Natasja Vermeer is a Dutch model and actress, mainly known for portraying Emmanuelle and for her campains for PETA. That, and a very early one episode role on a Dutch sitcom called Oppassen!!! (which I am not shouting at you, by the way – there really are three exclamation points in that title). She seems to have mostly focussed on modelling since then, and there’s very little else I can find on what she’s done that wasn’t Emmanuelle.
Except that she also sings and did some songs for the films. Nice.
Anyway, as you may have guessed, I am starting Project Emmanuelle out properly by focussing on this series because it’s just so fucking weird. It’s not the kind of weird that we’ll cover when we get to Emmanuelle Through Time but you can tell. You can tell it’s a path they’re coasting towards. By now Emmanuelle has dabbled in space travel, high-tech body kinesis gadgets and magic perfume, but baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Come with me as I introduce you to the world of Emmanuelle: The Private Collection and its first part, Sex Goddess.
Specifically, come with me as I introduce you to Abigail. You’ll be hearing a lot about her. Like, A LOT.
Emmanuelle Private Collection: Sex Goddess
Director: Yamie Phillipi
As Emmanuelle: Natasja Vermeer
Other cast: Molly Green, Sid Stratton, Lora Romanoff, Abigail Spielberg …
Series: The Private Collection, made between 2004 and 2006
The plot blurb
Emmanuelle is haunted by a seemingly spectral poet, who awakens within her lust for life. As she pursues this vision of artistic beauty, her friends become afraid that Emmanuelle is losing her mind. No one could be prepared that the answer to who that poet holds the answer to so much more.
Jesus, the state of this summary…
As you may have guessed, The Private Collection is the Emmanuelle franchise diving into the waters of the paranormal. Sex Goddess is presented as a kind of spiritual take on the classic Emmanuelle first-movie-in-the-series-origin story, which usually features the catalyst event that takes her into the situation which will unfold throughout the seven/eight films in the series. How this will pan out in Vermeer’s future instalments is something we’ll cover once we get to them. For now, let’s talk about that sex goddess, shall we?
In the opening to the film, we get introduced – via the medium of bloke-doing-a-voice-over-to-some-stock-footage-of-a-carnival – to another sort of origin story. Namely, the one of Abigail, who is the sex goddess/spectral poet come to haunt our intrepid protagonist. They come back to it a couple of times throughout the movie but it bears extremely little relevance to the rest of the plot. Other than establishing that Abigail is some kind of god of poetry and sex, who enjoys frolicking with a WHOPPING MASSIVE SNAKE.
Anyway, Abigail first materialises to Emmanuelle when she’s listening to an audio recording of one of her poems while masturbating. The experience proves to be powerful, but quickly gets confusing when her friend… flat mate… fellow student… person shows up with a broken camera asking her to fix it. Sure enough, Abigail starts haunting Emmanuelle through it and spouts so much sexy poetry at her that our Em becomes convinced she’s real and that they’re meant to be together.
Of course, this behaviour (complete with endless wails into the ether of “Abigail! Where are youuuuu??” with Vermeer’s Dutch accent turned up to eleven) unnerves the bejesus out of her friends. Slightly. I think. To me, there’s never any sense of proper worry, only a mild annoyance from the forementioned friend who Emmanuelle convinces into a dinner with her poetry professor because one of the books she’d brought home contained the poem by Abigail that’s been driving her potty.
There are two or three main liaisons in this one – one earlier (and rather disconnected-feeling) sex scene sees her having a tryst with a music teacher in the garden. This is capped by an appearance from Abigail, of course. But it’s Emmanuelle’s scene with the poetry professor that still gets me giggling like a little shit. Because by then she’s so obsessed with Abigail and so convinced that she’s real and she’s in love with her that, when the professor starts babbling randomly about the poet being inside him, Emmanuelle loses all common sense and begins to think that he is, in fact, Abigail.
To the point where she visits him at his house and greets him with “Hi Abigail!”
She does have an on-off lover in this one – a guy by the name of Steve, who doesn’t seem to know how shirts work as he rarely has one on – but he’s kind of forgettably douchy. In one scene, right after Emmanuelle turns baking cupcakes into one of the most pointlessly erotic things you will have ever seen, they have a sort of phone sex bit where, upon the mention of cupcakes, he says something along the lines of “I love it when you get all domesticated”. She then calls him Abigail in the midst of climax so fuck you, Stevie-No-Shirt.
Actually, he does turn up towards the end (avec shirt) but… yeah, the ending is hard to explain, kinda. I’ll try my best.
Emmanuelle meets a mysterious woman who appears to know Abigail in the same fashion she does. They have sex – without a doubt the best sex scene in the entire film – and the woman suggests she has a way of contacting Abigail. This turns out to be through some kind of spiritual ritual where all the characters Emmanuelle has encountered in the last hour and a half show up in a strange flurry of not-quite-an-explanation. What I think we’re meant to take from this, as we watch Emmanuelle leave Stevie-No-Shirt with a suitcase and a need for adventure, is that Abigail’s manifestation awakened something in Emmanuelle that she didn’t know was there. The flame of her hedonism has been kindled, and she’s now off to travel the world and live her best artistically sexual life.
Although Natasja Vermeer is definitely more into stepping into the shoes of Emmanuelle than Ludmilla Ferraz was, there’s something weirdly disconnected about the love scenes she has with the men in Sex Goddess. Maybe it’s because none of the male characters are very developed – you never see the music teacher again, the poetry professor is incredibly one-note (and also somehow involved with her mate, which for a second made me think they were conspiring against Emmanuelle) and Steve is… well, Steve, I guess.
The sex scene with the mysterious woman is much better, but it’s not saying much. It’s a very low-key, odd start to this series, but it has brought me to some conclusions.
– If Emmanuelle is to have an established lover, this person needs to have more than one dimension. They need to be a strong and developed character of their own accord, not just a witless shrug of a human being.
– Similarily, if she’s got an established best mate (or a group of them – a topic to be covered in a later instalment) there needs to be something more there than just someone who flaps around with ghost cameras and is a bit dismissive of what their mate is saying while she’s clearly in need of an understanding, listening ear.
– If you want to add an element of the supernatural/sci-fi/paranormal, make sure you actually explain what needs to be explained properly, and not through some vague voice-over bits.
Read my take on Emmanuelle in Rio here – Tweet along with #ProjectEmmanuelle – Watch and leave your own thoughts in the comments