30 May, 2007


Here's the cover of the new Severin Films DVD presentation of the Franco-Italian Ovidio Assonitis (BEYOND THE DOOR) production, LAURE. Below is a picture of the writer-director of the film. Well, not really. It's the legendary Eurasian novelist-actress Emmanuelle Arsan. She didn't actually write or direct this nor did she even pen the first EMMANUELLE novel, which became the 1974 French film featuring Sylvia Kristel. Aka Marayat Andriane, EA can not only be seen in this film but also had roles in the Steve McQueen film THE SAND PEBBLES and the US TV western show, THE BIG VALLEY [!].

LAURE is Assonitis' exploitation of the EMMANUELLE subgenre. Andriane/Arsan appears in the film in a supporting role, dispensing 70s "free love" philosophy "What will you do with your newfound freedom?" Her acting talents are a toss-up and Annie Belle [Brilland] is pretty much the whole show, turning the deficiencies in the script to her favor. This is harmless erotica of the silliest kind, but may provide a blast of nostalgia for fans of that genre in that era.

Laure is a free spirited young woman, the daughter of a Manila based minister-anthropologist, who meets an equally free spirited young filmmaker (Al Cliver/Pierluigi Conti) on a local bus. She sits on his lap and the rest in anthropology. He likes to "watch" via his 16mm camera mounted with a telephoto lens. It's all very Freudian, I guess. Or it's meant to be. After roaming the more photogenic attractions of the city they of course end up in bed together. He's not really much of a performer and she desires further erotic adventures with men, women and remote tribe (the Mara are up to the task here). There are the requisite lovemaking sessions in swimming pools, helicopters, wherever and whenever. They finally end up on an expidition into Mara territory and I was hoping for the sudden appearance of a cannibal tribe! No such luck. Laure ends up getting down with as many tribe members who can fit into a viewfinder and getting painted silver (kinda recalling Alexandra Delli Colli 's antics in the last scenes of ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST, but still no cannibals appear, frustrating my admittedly unrealistic expectations).
LAURE was actually known as EMMANUELLE FOREVER in some cases and it's basically a superior entry in that series under a different name. I certainly prefer it to EMMANUELLE, which I found boring when I saw it and reviewed it way back in 1974. It's a very glossy, well appointed production and has a classy look throughout.
Annie Belle was a talented actress who faced down David Hess in Ruggero Deodato's THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK and brought a sense of mystery to her early role as the female vampire in Jean Rollin's excellent LEVRES DES SANG (1974). I didn't find her particularly compelling here and her short cropped white [?!] hair is more distracting than appealing. It's a kinder, gentler softcore fantasy adventure with style to spare. It could have been a lost worse and is probably the best film I can think of which was directed by a French diplomat!

In the David Gregory directed EMMANULLE REVEALED producer Assonitis amusingly reveals that the film was actually written and directed by Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane, a French diplomat who was married to Emmanuelle Arsan. He penned the original Emmanuelle novels and credited them and this film to his wife to avoid a scandal. Given his occupation that was probably a wise move and an outstanding business decision. Ossonitis also talks about how he had to fire his original choice for role of Laure, Linda Lovelace, because of her drug habit and unprofessional behavior. That may have been a wise move at the time.

Cliver and Belle (in an audio only interview) talk about their offscreen love affair in LAURE-A LOVE STORY, ported from another presentation. Belle speaks frankly of her drinking during the production and terms herself an alcoholic, regretting that her character wasn't written with more depth. Belle did appear in BLACK EMMANUELLE, WHITE EMMANUELLE (which also included Cliver in the cast), and I must admit that the Italian Black Emanuelle series remains a preference in that universe because they tend to have an edgier, grittier texture, incorporate horror and although the dreamy Micalizzi cues for LAURE are perfectably acceptable I was waiting for the show to be suddenly energized by an infusion from a quirkier, ruder Nico Fidenco.

Nonetheless, it's another very fastidious transfer from Severin Films. The print [taken from vividly colorful French elements] and soundtrack are spotless.

1.78:1/16:9 widescreen transfer
Audio: Mono DD; English language only, no subtitles.
Extras: EMMANUELLE REVEALED--Interview with Producer Ovidio Assonitis[15m]
LAURE--A Love Story: Interviews with Al Cliver [video] and Annie Belle {audio only} [15m]
Not Rated.

I can report I did enjoy this presentation (along with the twisting backstories on the extras menu). The film itself is an oddity from my favorite decade and collectors of all things related to the "Emmanuelle" mythos are probably going to want to a look.

Street date is June 12th.
*My favorite film featuring Annie Belle and Al Cliver is Joe D'Amato's THE ALCOVE (1984), in which they both are excellent, arguably their best. Also featured is Laura BLACK EMANUELLE Gemser. It's a softcore melodrama with a superior script and really deserves a deluxe R1 DVD presentation with Italian and English language options [hopefully Severin is listening].


David A. Zuzelo said...

Thanks for the review Robert, you are my go to guy for Severin reviews. Looking forward to this and especially more Black Emmanuelle!

Robert Monell said...

Thanks for your comments, David. I'm not that fond of the film itself but the presentation is terrific as usual from SEVERIN. The BE Boxset V2 is something I'm also enthused about.

Anonymous said...

"My favorite film featuring Annie Belle and Al Cliver is Joe D'Amato's THE ALCOVE (1984), in which they both are excellent, arguably their best. Also featured is Laura BLACK EMANUELLE Gemser. It's a softcore melodrama with a superior script and really deserves a deluxe R1 DVD presentation with Italian and English language options [hopefully Severin is listening]."

I found THE ALCOVE unsatisfying. It was well made and acted but after all of the bad treatment that Gemser suffers during the first half, I was hoping she'd get her revenge. Instead, these rotten character retain their racist viewpoint and she's the one that is destroyed by Belle and Cliver's son so that Cliver (who "gave" Gemser to his wife) and Carati (with whom Belle was having an affair) can be saved from Gemser's "perversions."

Robert Monell said...

I found the film increasingly became ironic, in the good sense of the term, subversive in a way that made us reconsider the events. Yes, the facists win (as they did for a while over the Black Africans and facism ruled Italy) but it was because of complacency and that's what the film is about. It goes against expectations that she WILL get revenge, but she becomes revictimed. Victims usually remain victims and this is a film about how seemingly "normal" people fall into political and sexual roles. I've only seen it via that blurry Venezuelan video. But was still impressed.