Goodbye, Emmanuelle (1977) Goodbye, Emmanuelle / Emmanuelle 3 (1977) ***½

     With a title like Goodbye, Emmanuelle, we should know not to expect a happy ending. It’s something else again, though, for this “final” Emmanuelle film (the producers would bring the character back for another trilogy in the 80’s, after a seven-year hiatus) to transform the series as a whole into a parable for the failure of the Sexual Revolution. I mean, my God— the source novel for the franchise helped start the fucking thing! That itself might provide a clue to the change of perspective, however, for Goodbye, Emmanuelle was the first film of the bunch to be shot from an original screenplay, with no direct input from either of the people behind the pen name Emmanuelle Arsan. Siamese-born actress Marayat Andriane and her husband, French diplomat Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane, really did live the lifestyle portrayed in their books, which were written with conscious subversive intent. Some sense of the social and professional risk to which they thereby exposed themselves may be gleaned from the fact that the initial 1959 “edition” of Emmanuelle was published not merely anonymously, but also in samizdat. After all, France has conservatives, too, and they were very powerful at the turn of the 60’s. The Emmanuelle movies, on the other hand, can’t as plausibly be considered revolutionary documents. They were made in reaction to the novels’ popularity, and to exploit the implosive collapse of French film censorship. Perhaps the producers were never truly comfortable with the notion of razing Western sexual mores and rebuilding them from the ground up, or perhaps they feared that the ticket-buying public had a limited appetite for watching the process dramatized. Either way, Goodbye, Emmanuelle brings the story full circle. If Emmanuelle depicts its title character embarking on a life of sexual adventurism, and Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman shows her sharing and spreading the pleasures and freedoms which she has discovered, this third entry tells how she eventually grows weary of varsity-level bed-hopping, and withdraws back into the waiting arms of patriarchal monogamy.

     Again we have some discontinuity between the end of one film and the beginning of the next. This time, however, the “Jean” to whom Emmanuelle (Sylvia Kristel once more) is married is plainly the same guy as her husband from the preceding entry; he’s even played by the same actor, Umberto Orsini. Don’t ask me (or writer/director François Leterrier, or co-writer Monique Lange) why, but they’re living in the Seychelles now, forming the focal point of a veritable club of unfathomably wealthy libertines. There’s Michel Cordier (Memoirs of a French Whore’s, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze), whose advanced age and batrachian visage make him possibly the first-ever movie swinger to look the way they do in real life, and his somewhat younger and dramatically prettier wife, Florence (Olga Georges, from The Man Who Haunted Himself and Erotic Confessions of a Bed Too Welcoming). There’s Chloe (Charlotte Alexandra, of Immoral Tales and A Real Young Girl), the stunning and street-smart teenaged orphan whom the Cordiers have taken in as something between a ward and a human pet. There’s Clara (Sylvie Fennec), Emmanuelle’s best friend, who is married to a man we don’t see much of. And occasionally there’s Angelique (Radiah Frye, from Madame Claude and Spermula), the one non-European with whom Emmanuelle habitually associates. Officially, Angelique is her tailor, but from Emmanuelle’s point of view, it would be absurd to know a girl that gorgeous and not take her to bed at least once in a while.

     Angelique is married, too, and her husband, for one, is not down with this “free love” honky business at all. She’d better have a good fucking alibi if she takes too long on a house call at Emmanuelle’s place, or it’s an ass-whuppin’ for her. On the surface, Emmanuelle finds Mr. Angelique’s behavior distasteful in the extreme, and the good cheer with which Angelique puts up with it baffling. Look closely, though, and it’s evident that something cranks into motion in the back of her mind whenever she sees Angelique with a fresh shiner, like a part of her thinks the tailor might be getting something out of her marriage that’s missing from Emmanuelle’s. She gets the same look in her eyes, too, when Clara throws her husband out of the house. This swinger shit was all his idea, Clara reveals at a girl-talk session with Emmanuelle later, and she was never okay with it— not really. She thought she could learn not to be jealous or possessive or threatened by other women with time, but she’s done pretending now. If Whatshisname wants her back, it’ll have to be on a “thou shalt have no other pussy before thee” basis. Again Emmanuelle externally scoffs at her friend’s primitivism, and she has a good laugh about it with Jean when Clara’s not around, but internally…

     That’s where things stand when Emmanuelle goes to fuck the Swede. The Swede is a new professional acquaintance of Jean’s, and Jean is quite certain that he’d be right up his wife’s alley. For our purposes, though, he doesn’t directly matter. What matters is that while Emmanuelle is banging him on the beach, a stranger (Jean-Pierre Bouvier) cruises by on a boat, peering intently at the pair. Suddenly, Emmanuelle realizes that this is the guy she wants to be fucking. Obviously she’ll need to find out who the hell he is first, but there are only so many white men on this island. Emmanuelle’s nautical peeping Tom turns out to be a film director named Gregory, who has come to the Seychelles to do location scouting for his next picture. And yes— of course he’d be happy to take some time out of his busy schedule to trade a few orgasms with Emmanuelle. She gets a rude awakening once the deed is done, however. Far from wishing to join her circle of sexual explorateurs, Gregory calls her a whore and condemns her lifestyle as degenerate and unnatural. Rightly incensed, Emmanuelle storms off, but for some perverse reason, she can’t get Gregory out of her head even then.

     The next time Emmanuelle sees Gregory, he has a woman with him, and our heroine is overcome by an emotion she hasn’t consciously felt in ages. She’s still herself, though, so she channels her jealousy less into trying to win Gregory over than into a bid to seduce his date. This plan yields amusingly mixed results. On the one hand, Emmanuelle does get Dorothee (Alexandra Stewart, from Because of the Cats and The Uncanny) into bed with her, but since it turns out she’s a hard Kinsey-6 lesbian, Emmanuelle’s “victory” doesn’t mean what she meant it to.

     This new obsession of Emmanuelle’s is not lost on Jean, although it takes him a while to get to the root of it, and even longer to grasp its full implications. At first, he tries to distract his wife with Cecile (Caroline Laurence, returning as a different character from the one she played in Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman, whom we’ll see in yet a third role if I ever track down a copy of Emmanuelle 7), the new girl whom the Cordiers have been recruiting, but that goes nowhere. Eventually, however, it dawns on Jean that Emmanuelle is attracted to Gregory precisely because of the filmmaker’s traditionalist insistence that any woman of his will belong only to him. Emmanuelle, after all, is always after the next new sensation, and Gregory has inadvertently stumbled upon the one thing that Jean doesn’t even know how to offer her. With time, though, the prospect of actually losing his wife awakens Jean’s own dormant capacity for jealousy, so that he becomes ready to resort to any dirty, low-down trick in order to outmaneuver his rival. Besides, sinking to possessive subterfuge would just be giving Emmanuelle what she wants now, right? Right?

     The main reason why the legitimate, two-“m”-ed Emmanuelle movies are so much better than their competitors is that they’re consistently more successful at pretending to be about something. Goodbye, Emmanuelle even manages the impressive feat of back-porting meaning into the unabashedly frothy Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman by converting it into the idyllic second act of a much darker and more emotionally fraught drama. Remember that Emmanuelle’s libertinism was born of trauma, as a response to the spurning of her love by the archaeologist Bea. Her first Jean, emotionally stunted creature that he was, convinced her that love itself was her problem, and handed her over to sex-terrorist supercreep Mario for conditioning in the total separation of the sex drive from the higher emotions. We don’t know what happened next to get her to the happier place where she spent the first sequel, but with that as Emmanuelle’s origin story, the foundation of her commitment to any form of sexual radicalism has to be considered suspect. It could be argued, then, that Leterrier and Lange saw through the false pretenses of the preceding two films, and brought the story to its most logical, natural conclusion. For while it may be that most humans suck at monogamy, it’s equally true that most of us suck even worse at the kind of trust and communication necessary to maintain multiple intimate relationships in a non-exploitive way. Even the second Jean, when the chips are down, turns to deception instead of trusting Emmanuelle to choose in his favor. The dual irony of Goodbye, Emmanuelle is that by being an unethical, controlling bastard, Jean is still catering to what he perceives as his wife’s desires, while Emmanuelle’s submission to Gregory’s retrograde dominance is the first romantic decision we’ve seen her make by herself, for herself, since her fling with Bea blew up in her face.

     There’s also a third, metatextual layer of irony, because this is a soft-porn movie that ends by proclaiming the innate superiority of conventional sexual mores. What it condemns at the conclusion, it has spent the previous 80 minutes or so celebrating exuberantly. Leterrier knows how to celebrate this shit, too— maybe even better than Just Jaeckin and Francis Giacopetti. The sex in Goodbye, Emmanuelle isn’t just sexy, it’s sensuous. You almost feel like you’re inside the participants’ skins. And on a more general level, this is by a comfortable margin the most scenically, sartorially, and physically beautiful entry in a series that was already an international model for scenic, sartorial, and physical beauty. A virtue of the Emmanuelle series that’s easy to miss when the films are looked at in isolation is that none of the early entries have become esthetically dated the way even their most lavishly produced copycats have. The 70’s may have been the Decade that Taste Forgot everywhere else, but not in Emmanuelle Land. Goodbye, Emmanuelle in particular looks just as glamorous, elegant, and enticing in 2019 as it did when it was new. That helps the film hold onto its erotic charge as the years go by. Other vintage smut might look today like forgotten home movies of Mom and Dad that you’ll never be able to unsee, but the original Emmanuelle trilogy doesn’t have that problem.

 

 

Can you believe the B-Masters Cabal turns 20 this year? I sure don't think any of us can! Given the sheer unlikelihood of this event, we've decided to commemorate it with an entire year's worth of review roundtables— four in all. These are going to be a little different from our usual roundtables, however, because the thing we'll be celebrating is us. That is, we'll each be concentrating on the kind of coverage that's kept all of you coming back to our respective sites for all this time— and while we're at it, we'll be making a point of reviewing some films that we each would have thought we'd have gotten to a long time ago, had you asked us when we first started. For this first 20th-anniversary roundtable, we're keeping it simple, reviewing a slate of movies that we feel reflect the core competencies of our respective sites. So from me, you can expect to see something dark and horrid from the 70's, something garish and fun from the 80's, something from the 50's with a rubber-suit monster, and something smutty and European. Click the banner below to peruse the Cabal's combined offerings:

 

 

 

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