Cinema’s original sin returns with its shocking portrait of sexual submission from master of erotica Just Jaeckin (Emmanuelle, Lady Chatterly’s Lover). A stunning young woman (Corinne Clery) surrenders herself at a remote chateau at her lover’s (Udo Kier) request and is immediately forced into a round the clock regimen of every sexual appetite imaginable. Her submission is total to the orgasmic odyssey that explores the shadowy boundaries between pleasure and pain.
Histoire d’O 7.5
eyelights: Corinne Clery. its fairytale-like style. the sets. the costumes.
eyesores: its BDSM elements.
‘Histoire d’O’ is a Just Jaeckin (of ‘Emmanuelle‘ and ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ fame) motion picture based on the 1954 book by Pauline Réage (née Anne Desclos). It’s a fantasy about a woman who submits herself to all sorts of bondage and sado-masochistic acts to prove her devotion to her love, René. Desclos had apparently written this as a sort of love letter to her own lover, who was an admirer of the Marquis de Sade.
The book was controversial because it was claimed in some quarters as being the ultimate objectification of women, in that the protagonist is servile and used not only as a sex object but allows herself to be owned by her lover, to be used in whatever way he chose. It was also subject to obscenity charges by French authorities, who deemed the work pornographic to an unacceptable degree.
I knew nothing of ‘Histoire d’O’ when the film first came out on DVD over a decade ago. I worked in a video store then, and an ad for it was prominently featured in our new release books. All I knew was that its lead actress was absolutely gorgeous, and that it offered lots of nudity; it was a combination that I simply couldn’t ignore and when the video store finally got a copy I quickly snapped it up and watched it.
I wasn’t an immediate fan, and I’m not a great one now, but I did appreciate its esthetic quality. And I loved seeing Corinne Clery in a film other than “Moonraker’; she had been a standout Bond Girl for me for years and had never seen her anywhere else. To rediscover her in such a context was pure delight; she was so delicious that even the most degrading or humiliating situations were made tolerable by sheer virtue of her sexiness.
I don’t think that I can understate this point, actually. To be frank, I dislike BDSM to a great degree because I believe that power should stay out of the bedroom; there’s enough power games in the rest of our lives to bring it into our sex lives as well. But even the scene in which O is chained to the ceiling with her arms spread out, after being whipped, managed to be sexy because of Clery; watching the sweat streaming down her perfect body, her loose curls floating around her face, makes up for the savagery.
Jaeckin, a photographer, purposely made ‘Histoire d’O’ out to be an erotic fantasy, as the book intended. He shot it in soft focus and made everything feel like a fairytale, from the sets to the costumes, even to the music. As for the sex and violence, he stuck to the notion that eroticism is highly dependent on imagination, and that it’s frequently best to leave a lot for the audience to create themselves; the violence, in particular, is edited in such as way as to be less visceral and more interpreted.
The cast is pretty good, all things considered (let’s face it, a production like this one will not usually reel in a-listers), and everything holds up from start to finish – if one is able to believe the central conceit, that someone would subject themselves to all sorts of humiliations for Love. If one can understand from the start that this is simply a fantasy, even within the context of the film, then it’s easier to swallow. Of course, whether one appreciates this type of fantasy is another matter and is up to individual taste.
As for me, I have started to appreciate it more over time. ‘Histoire d’O” is beautifully shot, features beautiful sets, beautiful costumes, and beautiful women (heck, the men ain’t half bad either!), so it’s nice to look at. The violence is another matter for me, however, but I know that this may not be true for everyone. Some people are turned on by this sort of thing and O’s story is a safe one, because it’s fictitious and it only takes place in her mind – it doesn’t actually happen to her for “real”.
So, for what it is, ‘Histoire d’O’ is a fairly good motion picture. And I’m pretty sure that fans of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ would enjoy it.
Date of viewing: December 30, 2012