This is a bit of art-house erotica from 1979, featuring three short films by three of the most well-respected directors of the era.
Just Jaeckin’s up first, with a hilarious send-up of Joe D’Amato-style cannibal pictures, featuring none other than D’Amato’s big star, Laura Gemser. The story follows a mariner, Benoit, who is shipwrecked on a deserted island. Or at least he thinks it’s deserted, until he sees Gemser wandering around. Can it be true? Is he lucky enough to be stuck on an island with “Black Emanuelle” herself?
There are some really funny touches, such as the scene where Benoit is watching Gemser bathe in a stream. He hears a boat’s horn, and immediately goes running back to the shore, yelling, “A boat! A boat!” He’s left a crude SOS on a tall pole to attract the attention of any passing boat; he runs up to it, and destroys it. “I’d rather stay here,” he says, thinking about Gemser’s tantalizing body.
It gets even better for him when he finds her three sisters, and all of them want to take care of him. It’s truly an earthly paradise. However, all good things must come to an end, and he soon realizes that they’re not taking care of him – they’re fattening him up! As for the erotic content, well, you’ve got Laura Gemser topless for the entire 30 minutes. How’s that for a start?
If only the rest of the movie could live up to that. Shuji Terayama is up next, and he may be the least well-known of the three directors. In the West, his only famous film is Fruits of Passion, which follows this one chronologically. As a director he seems more interested in working out arresting visual images rather than the intricacies of a coherent plot. But that can apply to a lot of directors.
As far as I can figure out, it’s about a boy who stumbles upon a nymphomaniac witch who tantalizes him with the promise of illicit sexual awakenings. His mother warns him to stay away, even to the point of tying him to a tree and beating him. But his curiosity continues to get the better of him. The images get more and more bizarre, and the relationship between the boy and the mother seems to get closer and closer, even if only metaphorically. I think the boy dies, as does the mother, but I’m not entirely sure. The fate of the nympho witch is even less clear to me. Watch this one for the visuals or the haunting score, but don’t expect it to make too much sense.
For Walerian Borowczyk, this is familiar territory. After all, he pretty much popularized the episodic erotic film with Immoral Tales in 1975. His film is an adaptation of a short story by Maupassant of a man filled with ennui who wanders the streets of Paris looking for some company. A burlesque show leads him to a prostitute, who he commissions for the entire night by paying her 24 times her half hour rate. The prostitute leads him back to her dingy basement flat, and prepares to have him stay with her for the night. He’s of course nervous to enter this unknown territory, but after they have sex, he lights up a cigar and settles in to get to know this mysterious woman.
For Borowczyk, this is even more familiar territory because he directed a very similar film three years early, La Marge, featuring the unlikely pairing of Sylvia Kristel and Joe Dallesandro. That one is very nearly a masterpiece, albeit unlikely to ever get a proper airing because of its incredible soundtrack featuring the likes of Pink Floyd and Elton John. The film is probably worth more in clearance rights than it will ever make on DVD. That movie is amazing compared to this. This one is so atypical in terms of Borowczyk’s usual style, you wonder whether he actually directed it.
There seems to be a common theme at work in all of these short films. A man who is missing something from his life is brought into contact in one way or another with some sort of erotic fantasy female. This fantasy inevitably ends up turning into something unexpected, violent, or just out and out disappointing.
What a shitty theme for a softcore film. Intellectually, this may be all well and good, but it doesn’t necessarily make for an erotic experience. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a bigger buzz kill than the ending of the Borowczyk segment. I’d imagine that the original viewing public, all six or seven of them, walked out of the theater without any intention of having sex that night, or possibly again.
Severin Films usually piles on the DVD extras, and on this disc there’s an enjoyable new interview with Just Jaeckin where he admits that the shooting of the movie was pretty much a paid holiday for him, and he goes to great lengths to praise the beauty of Laura Gemser. The director of Emmanuelle getting hot over Black Emanuelle? I hate to say it, but for me, that was the highlight of this disc!