Synopsis: Stunning Erika Blanc stars as Emmanuelle in this breakthrough film from director Cesare Canevari, which represents the first screen appearance of Emmanuelle Arsan’s “Emmanuelle” character. Having been left by her man, Emmanuelle seeks the affection she craves elsewhere. In the course of a day, she finds herself with a depraved writer, a businessman betrayed by his wife and an imbecile journalist. But by the end of the day, she learns that her man has been killed in a road accident, leaving her to meditate sorrowfully on her sordid actions.
Io, Emmanuelle 6.5
eyelights: its pretty women. its sexy bits.
eyesores: its sullen mood. its thin yet opaque plot.
“The love in violence. The violence in love.”
I’m no great fan of the ‘Emmanuelle‘ series or its many spin-offs. While I recognize its cultural significance, I don’t find any of its entries especially appealing. But, when I found out that there was a little-known predecessor to Just Jaeckin’s 1974 landmark film, I felt that I should make a point of seeing it.
‘Io, Emmanuelle’ is an Italian motion picture written and directed by Cesare Canevari and starring Erika Blanc as its titular heroine. Turns out it’s completely unrelated to the classic French series. In fact, it’s also completely unrelated to the 1967 book that spawned it, Emmanuelle Arsan’s autobiographical ‘Emmanuelle’.
The fact is that, despite some misinformation (or calculated marketing disinformation!), ‘Io, Emmanuelle’ is actually inspired by ‘Disintegrazione ’68’, a novel by Italian author Graziella Di Prospero. It follows a brooding and mournful Emmanuelle as she tries to sort out her love life by sleeping with a series of men.
Sounds sexy, does it?
Yeah… it’s actually really depressing.
The thing is, this Emmanuelle is borderline suicidal; she regrets some undefined actions she committed and the effect they’ve had on a former lover. When we meet her, she sits around in the nude, drinking by herself. She has visions of jumping off her balcony, so she goes out and imposes herself on male friends.
She asks them to “make love” to her.
Naturally, they indulge her.
But then she acts outs with every single one of them: with her writer friend, she burns his new novel while he’s taking a bath; with her fashion designer friend, she has him tear a silk dress she put on and nags him about being a cuckold; she lectures a stranger who picks her up; steals an heirloom from her coworker, …etc.
Basically, she’s an @$$hole.
Granted, she’s troubled, and she’s probably not acting quite like herself, but she’s still an unpalatable protagonist; it makes it difficult to empathize with her. Especially since we don’t know exactly what’s tormenting her; despite her many internal monologues, we only get a sketchy sense of what is going on with her.
Her general despondency is utterly unsexy, so not even the sexy bits make up for the brooding. Yes, the sexy bits are pleasing to the eye, but they’re not sexy. To make matters worse, they’re edited in quick cuts, with random glimpses at various body parts. Clearly, Canevari was trying to avoid censorship, but it’s erratic.
There’s one interesting bit, though, when Emmanuelle meets with a glamourous but butchy female friend of hers who’s been hitting on her for ages without any success: they’re sitting at a restaurant table in silence, half naked, their internal monologues baring what they think of each other. It’s a bit of artsy fun.
Beyond that, though, ‘Io, Emmanuelle’ is really just a string of awkward encounters that contribute nothing to our understanding of Emmanuelle, culminating in her deciding to figuratively kill her former self instead of doing it literally. What changed her mind and what the future holds remain a mystery to us in the end.
The only potential hint that we get is when she discusses war and armed conflict during a few of her encounters, even envisioning everyone at a restaurant dressed as soldiers. She seems to believe that men are destined to fight each other and it bothers her. But is that really why she was so troubled at the onset?
Perhaps she sought some form of tenderness to make up for the violence she sees around her. After all, there are a couple of references to the intermingling of violence and love, including a quasi-religious lovemaking experience in which choirs belt out when her lover bites into her. But is that really the meat of the matter.
‘Io, Emmanuelle’ is not only unrelated to the ‘Emmanuelle’ series, which is confusing enough at first, but it doesn’t even stand on its own two feet. Perhaps the novel explored some significant themes, but they’re lost in translation here. And no amount of choppy softcore sex can make up for its brooding, gloomy quality.
No wonder this picture’s been largely forgotten.
Date of viewing: September 2, 2017