Clothes and inhibitions go missing when a French diplomat's wife liberates herself in the opium dens and women's changing rooms of Bangkok in the first of what could be argued as one of cinema's most prolific creations. This somewhat dated film was hugely successful taking titillating eroticism from the back streets to the high street and creating a liberating experience for a sexually repressed cinema. A world-wide smash that in good old Blighty became a huge hit as a date movie, it ran in one Paris cinema for 13 years.
The film kicks off as it means to continue, with Emmanuelle (SYLVIA KRISTEL) having sex with not one, but two men on her plane trip (one in the toilet) to join her remarkably un-possessive husband (DANIEL SARKY) in his new Thai post as a Bangkok based diplomat. Once there she's guided into the delights of numerous erotic awakenings by beautiful teenager Ariane (JEANNE COLLETIN), before being taken on an intoxicating journey of sexual self-discovery by old owl Mario (ALAIN CUNY).
No amount of Eastern philosophy or lux interiors can conceal the film's titillating core, but compared to the soulless gynaecology of today's internet and video sex, it is sensuous and involving. Director Just Jaeckin, a former fashion photographer, clearly understood that leaving something to the imagination helps separate erotica from the mere pornographic. His film is very coffee-table - like an animated '70s Pirelli Calendar, although it can get pretty steamy at times. Playboy magazine's reviewer reckoned that the mile-high toilet scene, "amounts to the subtlest, randiest five minutes in the history of recent cinema."
There's also a storyline to sustain interest beyond the nubile bodies. The film was adapted from a novel by Marayat Rollet-Andriane under the pseudonym of Emmanuelle Arsan. The book (which legend has it, was based on Rollet-Andriane's experiences as the young wife of a member of the French delegation to UNESCO) was initially banned by the De Gaulle government, but became an underground best-seller.
Described by The Sunday Times as, "A chicly beautiful blue movie," Emmanuelle the film was a huge success. It broke box office records in France, enjoyed a continuous three year run at a cinema in the West End, and spawned 26 spin-off productions (at last count) in which 15 different actresses have taken on the Emmanuelle character.