I have a confession to make. This post has been sitting in my drafts for the better part of two months. I’ve started it, re-started it and scrunched up the virtual paper so many times. You think Sexual Spellswas bad? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Welcome then, dear reader, to Jesse’s Secret Desires. Schrödinger’s Emmanuelle film. It both is and isn’t one. How, you may ask, is this possible? Let’s find out.
OK. I’m not going to lie. I’ve said it on Twitter and I’ll say it again here: this one nearly did me in. This is probably the fifth time I’ve restarted writing about Emmanuelle: Sexual Spells and I am determined to make it the one that sticks because I desperately want to move on and finish the Vermeer era.
Why did Sexual Spells nearly do me in? Why was this one in particular the one that caused me the most sweats so far (and not in a YE GODS THIS IS SEXY kind of way)? Because, my friends, this is the one where The Private Collection just goes off the rails and stops even remotely trying. To make sense. To have a coherent plot. To even have Emmanuelle as someone who actively participates in that plot.
This is Sexual Spells. Buckle up, motherfuckers, and let’s ride this pony home.
Last time on Project Emmanuelle, we had an altogether more chilled time with Brittany Odell and her radio talk show antics. Sure, actual fucking nymphs showed up to waft around Emmanuelle’s bedroom but still.
This time, we’re dipping into rather more ethereal waters as Emmanuelle’s summer house turns out to be haunted by the ghost of a baron and his two lovers. Can the spell of the supernatural mend the relationship of the three friends Emmanuelle has staying over? Is Emmanuelle still looking for this David chap from the last film? (Answer – No.)
And, most importantly, how long will it take for you to get utterly freaked out at the baron’s haunted, faceless portrait?
Last time on Project Emmanuelle, we hit an early highlight (or not, depending on your tolerance for crazy sauce) as Emmanuelle faced off against Dracula himself, in a battle of sexual wits. Also, some other guy was involved and managed to trick an entire hen party of Emmanuelle’s mates into very nearly joining his army of the sexy undead.
By comparison, Emmanuelle The Private Collection: Sex Talk is a lovely, tranquil sea of calmth. It is the Paracetamol to your heat-related tension headache. It is the Sunday morning Frasier double bill to soothe your Saturday night hangover.
In that it has a radio talkshow and its host central to the plot, as that’s what the Sex Talk of the title refers to.
Yep. At some point in the character’s life span, yonks after Emmanuelle’s origins as the bored housewife of a French diplomat looking for something more from her sexual experiences, she got out the stake and holy water to combat Dracula.
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.
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 onEmmanuelle in Rio here – Tweet along with #ProjectEmmanuelle – Watch and leave your own thoughts in the comments
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.
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me tweeting about watching some of the Emmanuelle movies for the purpose of writing research. Which, in all seriousness, is what I’ve been doing it for – I am currently in the early stages of planning a long form story based heavily on Emmanuelle, and considering there’s about 800 different movies with a trillion different actresses playing her (seriously, sexual Time Lord), I wanted to at least get a general taste of the character by watching and comparing different incarnations.
But, as I discovered about one and a half Emmanuelle movie in, watching and comparing the different incarnations is of absolutely no use if I’m not taking notes to process my thoughts and the facts. It is, after all, how I work best (and the entire genesis of this blog what you are reading right now, you are).
There are a couple of reasons why I think that Emmanuelle, in her many incarnations, is an utterly fascinating ‘verse to be immersed in.
The weird hints of magical realism which crop up in later movies (notably, in the Marcella Walerstein films, where Emmanuelle can transform herself into different people through some kind of magical perfume given to her by a monk…)
The constant quest to figure out, as a viewer, what it is that makes Emmanuelle so irresistible
The unofficial, non-canon, Laura Gemser-starring Italosploitation Emanuelle films (one M because copyright) are the stuff of dreams for a social studies PHD student
The never-not ear-splittingly bad, yet catchy theme songs
The franchise delving into technology for both the Krista Allen and Holly Sampson movies
The core values of Emmanuelle as a character stay the same, no matter which incarnation you talk about
With a few tweaks and polishes to both her and her story, she would still work as a character in this day and age (briefly ignoring the more recent movies starring Allie Haze).
And, as I start to work on bringing the character alive on the page (in a modern day incarnation), I want to share my research with you guys. Yep, I am going into film analyst mode and bringing you my review of all the Emmanuelle/Emanuelle movies ILB and I will watch for this project. It will include notes, gripes, thoughts and (possibly) confusion about storylines and unnecessary shots.
Films we’ve watched so far?
Emmanuelle’s Love (Marcella Walerstein)
Black Emanuelle (Laura Gemser)
Emmanuelle: A World of Desire (Krista Allen)
I’ll be writing down my thoughts on those three in a combo-blog post at some point soon.
So… welcome to Project Emmanuelle, I guess.
I may come to regret this decision.
On another note, Sexpo UK is hitting that there London (Olympia to be exact) pretty soon! If you want to go and check out the first UK edition of this awesome sexual health and lifestyle exhibition, you can get 20% off your tickets with the discount code Boyd2015. Just click on the awesome banner below to get your tickets – and hopefully I’ll see you there!
(Need another reason to give Sexpo UK a go? Main stage performers include the awesome Burlesque superstar Lolo Brow, the hot, hot heat of Pyrohex, and the quite frankly AMAZING lyrical stylings of Rayguns Look Real Enough. UNLEASH THE TIGER!)