For legendary producer Pierre Braunberger (Shoot The Piano Player), it was the most enticing of challenges: Invite the three most controversial directors in modern erotic cinema to indulge their fantasies in one daring film. The result remains one of the most uniquely sensual motion pictures of our time.
In the first story from director Just Jaeckin (Emmanuelle, Gwendoline), a castaway sailor is rescued by a tribe of succulent native women – led by the stunning Laura Gemser of Black Emmanuelle fame – who soon reveal their most unusual appetites. Then director Shuji Terayama (Fruits Of Passion) explores the haunting tale of a Japanese boy seduced by the riddle song of a village madwoman. And in the bold adaptation of a short story by De Maupassant, director Walerian Borowczyk (Immoral Women, The Beast) reveals the torrid liaison between a Parisian gentleman, a Follie Bergere prostitute and an unexpected surprise that hides in the night.
Collections privées 7.25
eyelights: the gorgeous women. the style(s).
eyesores: the gradually diminishing returns.
‘Collections privées’ is an anthology film featuring shorts by directors Just Jaeckin, Shûji Terayama and Walerian Borowczyk. I knew nothing of it when I picked it up; it was part of a Borowczyk boxed set that included ‘Les héroïnes du mal‘ and ‘Ars amandi‘. It worked splendidly because I had been waiting to review Jaeckin’s ‘Emmanuelle‘ and ‘Histoire d’O’; it would make for a perfect connecting thread.
1. “L’île aux sirènes“, by Just Jaeckin: The story of a sailor who goes overboard and washes ashore on an island, alone with four beautiful women, this one is as predictable as the fantasy is clichéd. It was lovely to look at, though, what with the setting and the lithe bodies on display.
The lead actress (if you can call any of them that), Laura Gemser, was absolutely sublime. No wonder she made a career in Emmanuelle films. Roland Blanche, though, who plays our protagonist, was an annoying prick who kept whining like an overgrown boy, feeling no small sense of entitlement. Perhaps it was just a sign of the times, but watching him take advantage of the women’s hospitality annoyed me to no end.
I also wonder about the outcome of the film, which isn’t all milk and honey. Is this short an expression of a fear of women, of their sexual potency (as discussed in ‘Anatomie de l’enfer‘)? In some ways it wouldn’t surprise me, but it was an unusual -but not unexpected- twist in what could have simply been forty minutes of eye candy.
It remains a delicious short, though, being the one with -by far- the most nudity of the lot. In fact, there is so much of it overcompensates for the others, which have far less.
2. “Kusa-Meikyu“, by Shûji Terayama: Somehow, I couldn’t keep track of the story here – even after scanning through it quickly a second time afterwards.
It’s a somewhat avant-gardist piece about a young man who wants to hear a lullaby that his mom used to sing to him as a child, but can’t find anyone who’s familiar with it. During his journey, we are treated to flashbacks to his childhood and youth.
This one was by far the most visually arresting film of the lot, but its structure makes it hard to comprehend. It mostly feels like a dream or hallucination, with the recollections of the past being in vibrant colour and his current life in muted tones.
But I simply couldn”t understand what was going on: Is the man dead and living on another plane of existence? Did he actually face witches or the undead, or was he just having a nightmare? Was his mother a ghostly apparition? Why is he trying to hear that lullaby again? What’s the pull?
It was an unusual piece to say the least, replete with atypical directorial choices; it was extremely stylistic, but certainly not erotic, no matter how much nudity there was. I really, really liked the vibe, but I’m not sure that I got the gist of it. But I do want to watch it again.
3. “L’armoire“, by Walerian Borowczyk: ‘L’armoire’ is the simple tale of a man who is depressed and decides to go to a “house of pleasure” (i.e. whorehouse) to distract himself. There he meets a woman he wants to spend the whole night with.
He’s actually paying for the company, more so than the sex (Hahaha! And thank goodness for that, too, ’cause the sex itself last approximately three seconds! He didn’t get his money’s worth!). However, she has a secret lying in wait in her room…
Unfortunately, this one isn’t entirely successful. One the one hand, it’s a well-made short but, as erotica, it’s far too focused on the drama to work. The acting is pretty good, the cast looks the part, the production is decent, but the story trips up the atmosphere.
What’s particular about the first two shorts are their soundtracks, which are totally discrepant, ill-suited to the settings, being synth-heavy and proggy. I don’t know what the filmmakers were thinking, but it felt too dramatic for the first one, which takes place on a semi-deserted island, and anachronistic in the second one, which is a period piece. I mean, it gave those films a distinctive flavour, but I’m not sure how good of an idea it was.
All this to say that ‘Collections privées’ is a mixed bag: whereas the set starts off with the purest of sex fantasies, it then devolves into arty fare that isn’t sexy at all. Each short is good in its own right, but it’s not exactly the kind of fodder one might want to watch late at night. I’d love to know what the intention was and what its audience was supposed to be, because it’s not especially clear to me. Still, this semi-erotic triptych is solid throughout, and it’s worth seeing, despite its unevenness.
Date of viewing: June 12, 2013