Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Hidden Cinema of Jean Rollin: Emmanuelle 6 (1988)

While he is only credited with the storyline of 1988’s Emmanuelle 6, Jean Rollin in fact served as the director of at least half the doomed production. A fairly feeble conclusion to what was initially one of the strongest erotic series ever made, Emmanuelle 6 has little to recommend but for Rollin fans the film is at least worth a glance.

Centering on a bizarre and rather ridiculous story of Emmanuelle as an amnesiac attempting to find herself again through a series of erotic adventures, Emmanuelle 6 is as far removed from the glorious first two films that made the series one of the most popular of the seventies. Screaming ‘eighties’ (and not in a good way) at every turn, Emmanuelle 6 is a slick and glossy production that is as empty as it is boring. If the weak plotting and mostly limp direction weren’t enough to spoil it, the fact that former Playboy model Natalie Uher generates little to no heat makes the film all but un-watchable at most points.

It is really not fair to blame the pretty Uher for Emmanuelle 6’s failure, as she was practically a total novice when the film was shot in 1987 (it would turn out to be the last film role for the young Austrian model). Nor can Jean Rollin be held accountable for the film’s problems, as his involvement on the film was mainly an attempt to save the production and make sure it was completed for the financers. The real problem with Emmanuelle 6 is that it was made at all, as the spirit of the original had all but vanished by the increasingly conservative eighties. The character of Emmanuelle was nothing but a sweet and fevered dream by 1988 and Emmanuelle 6 stands as a cinematic attempt at flogging a dead horse.

The director credited with the disastrous Emmanuelle 6 is Bruno Zincone, a former editor unprepared for a South American shoot with an inexperienced actress as his lead. Rollin told Peter Blumenstock in the pages of Video Watchdog and Virgins and Vampires that he stepped in to complete the film when Zincone, “couldn’t go back and finish it because he had another job to go to.” With the film only halfway completed and the investors understandably angry and worried, Rollin stepped in with little to no preparation and finished the film. Rollin recalled to Blumenstock that one of his main contributions to Emmanuelle 6 was coming up, “with the idea of Emmanuelle having lost her memory”, an admittedly absurd touch that at the very least recalls some of Rollin’s past glories.

Featuring a weak snyth soaked score from Olivier Day and photography by two cinematographers (Serge Godet and Max Monteillet) Emmanuelle 6 is not even technically a very good film. Having two cinematographers causes the film to basically feel like the split production it was, giving it a stylistic inconsistency that is actually more interesting than anything on-screen. The sex scenes are monotonous (especially in the alternate hard version that was prepared) and nothing approaching true eroticism is approached. Emmanuelle 6 finally feels like a rather cheap men’s magazine and it remains one of the worst productions on Rollin’s resume.

Emmanuelle 6 has a few noteworthy moments. The opening credit sequence, bathed in blue, is actually rather terrific and does a good job of playing with the iconic imagery associated with the Sylvia Kristel original. Also, the last half hour of the film does pick up slightly with special note going to some rather outrageous and unforgettable images that could have only come from the mind of Jean Rollin. Finally the film’s concluding moments, featuring a desert masturbation sequence with Uher, stand as of the most oddball finales is screen history.

Edited versions of Emmanuelle 6 can be found via used VHS copies and import DVDs. The full-length hard version remains unreleased, to my knowledge, but it is circulating online and can be found for folks looking to track it down. Rollin has had very little to say about the film over the years, which is fitting, as really there just isn’t much to say.


Valor said...

Nice job Jeremy!
Did you notice the "African sorceress" also appears in "Perdues dans New York"?
Same actress, same make-up and same yellow outfit: might be a deleted scene ?

And oh yes, the alternate hard version was released in France on VHS :


dfordoom said...

I've only seen the first two Emmanuelle films, both of which I like. But they're so much a product of the 70s, which was the sort of decade that made a concept like classy erotica seem possible.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks for the comments and thanks Valor for that link!