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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Emmanuelle is the lead character in a series of French soft porn erotic movies based on a character created by Emmanuelle Arsan in the novel Emmanuelle (1959). Only films and episodes produced by the ASP ("Alain Siritzky Productions") film company are official and based on Arsan's character.

The name Emmanuelle (and its various spelling combinations) has gone on to become a by-word for erotic film.



The character first appeared in a movie called Io, Emmanuelle in 1969 and was played by Erika Blanc. The character was recreated in Emmanuelle in 1974, played by Sylvia Kristel, who is probably the actress best identified with the role. This film pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable on screen at the time, with its sex scenes, as well as scenes involving rape, masturbation, the "Mile High Club", and a noted scene in which a dancer is shown inserting a cigarette into her vagina. Unlike many films that tried to avoid an X-rating, the first Emmanuelle film embraced it, and became a huge international success with a viewing audience to date estimated at over 300 million viewers worldwide. It remains one of France's most successful films, and reportedly played in some theatres there for years.

Several sequels starring Kristel followed, beginning with Emmanuelle 2 which is also known as Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman in its US release, and also Emmanuelle L’antivierge in some European press materials, including the soundtrack LP and CD.

Kristel stepped away from the role briefly in the 1980s, yielding to younger actresses, but returned for the 7th feature film, and continued to make cameo appearances as an older Emmanuelle in a number of cable TV films. She also appeared in a number of films that either capitalized upon or parodied her Emmanuelle image, such as the American sex comedy Private Lessons.

None of the actresses who went on to play Emmanuelle would go on to become as successful. One of the better-known actresses to take the part in the 1980s (which, in some parts of Europe, was considered as coveted as James Bond) was American b-movie actress Monique Gabrielle.

After the last official Emmanuelle theatrical feature film, Emmanuelle au 7ème ciel, ASP took Arsan's character to made-for-cable outings instead. These included a science fiction series in the 1990s called Emmanuelle in Space starring American actress/model Krista Allen in one of her first major roles. More recently, Emmanuelle: The Private Collection introduced Natasja Vermeer in the lead role for another slew of video episodes.

French distribution company Studio Canal has recently acquired home video rights for a number of the Emmanuelle movies, and has been releasing remastered DVD editions of the films in several markets.

In a number of press releases, ASP vowed their next project, Emmanuelle Tango would be a return to theatrical distribution for the franchise.

Explicit content

The level of sexual explicitness in the official Emmanuelle films varies from arty softcore to full hardcore, although no actual penetration or oral has ever made it to any of the theatrical versions, even in France. There are many who question the place of hardcore scenes at all in the world of Emmanuelle, and ASP has never attempted to mix the two genres after experimenting in the late 1980s.

  • Emmanuelle 4 (1984), starring Kristel and new Emmanuelle Mia Nygren, had hardcore scenes shot, but they were never used. These explicit scenes, even featuring ejaculation, turned up as extras on the Polish DVD edition of Emmanuelle 4.
  • Emmanuelle 5 (1986), directed by notorious arthouse filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk, was released in two versions: one with softcore love scenes typical of the series, and a French home video version that extended several scenes with hardcore sex (none of the principal cast members participate in these inserts). The scenes in question are the Love Express and dance studio segments, embellished with penetration, ejaculation and even a woman urinating. This VHS version also omits several minutes of footage seen in the theatrical version (including dialogue and crucial plot), so it cannot be considered an "uncut version".
  • Emmanuelle 6 (1988), also had hardcore scenes, directed by cult erotic horror specialist Jean Rollins, but they were not used in any available cuts.


  • Emmanuelle first appeared as the nom de plume of Marayat Rollet-Andriane, a French-Asian actress born in 1930s Bangkok. Her 1957 book "The Joys of a Woman" detailed the sexual exploits of Emmanuelle, the bored housewife of a French diplomat. Rollet-Andriane's book caused a sensation in France and it was banned by De Gaulle's government. It was later revealed that her husband Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane actually wrote Emmanuelle, and all other books under the Arsan moniker. She appeared in the film Laure, as a condition of her husband who wrote and directed the film.
  • Emmanuelle's screen debut came in 1969 with the Italian film Io, Emmanuelle starring Erika Blanc. The film was a flop and its director, Cesare Canevari, would later plumb new depths with the Nazi-exploitation classic Gestapo's Last Orgy.
  • Sylvia Kristel made the role her own with the 1973 release of Emmanuelle, directed by the French former interior designer, Just Jaeckin. The film played to packed houses in Paris, running for years straight.
  • Emmanuelle was also an international hit and has played to an estimated global audience of 300 million. If video and DVD are taken into account, it's closer to 650 million.
  • In France and the US the film was uncut, but British censors balked at scenes of masturbation and explicit sex. In the end, the scene in which Emmanuelle is raped as part of her "sexual education" was the only one to get deleted.
  • In a scene where Emmanuelle climbs on top of her husband during a sex scene, a group of Japanese feminists at a Parisian cinema reportedly rose to their feet and applauded.
  • Kristel sold her interest in Emmanuelle for $150,000, missing out on a share of the film's $26m domestic gross. She was paid just $6,000 for her starring role but negotiated a $100,000 contract for the sequel, "Emmanuelle 2".
  • A number of productions made in Italy, Japan and the United States decided to cash in on the Emmanuelle craze with a series of rip-offs, simply changing the spelling of the title to avoid legal action. In a number of cases, the character's name was spelled "Emanuelle" suggesting these films were not authorized. Among the best known of the knock-offs were a series of Italian "Black Emanuelle" films starring Laura Gemser.
  • The 1978 spoof Carry On Emmannuelle (note the double "N") starred Kenneth Williams as the French ambassador to London. Having lost his libido after landing on a church spire during a parachute jump, his sex-starved wife, Emmannuelle Prevert, seduces a string of VIPs. It starred Suzanne Danielle in the title role.


Another important facet of the Emmanuelle films is the music. The soundtrack albums went on to become huge successes in their own right, the themes becoming as well-known as the films in some regions.

  • Emmanuelle (1974), France. Barclay 80545, LP. Music by Pierre Bachelet.
  • Emmanuelle 2 (1975), France. Wip Records 863 002, LP. Music by Francis Lai.
  • Goodbye Emmanuelle (1977), Japan. Philips FDX-334, LP. Music by Serge Gainsbourg.
  • Emmanuelle 4 (1984), France. Carrere 66084, LP. Music by Michel Magne.
  • Emmanuelle 5 (1986), France. Music by Pierre Bachelet. Never released on LP or CD.
  • Emmanuelle 6 (1988), France. Music by Olivier Day. Never released on LP or CD.
  • Emmanuelle au 7ème ciel (1992), France. Music by Pierre Bachelet. Never released on LP or CD.


Related works

  • Io, Emmanuelle (1969) - first film adaptation of the novel Emmanuelle, not an ASP film
  • Laure (1976) ... aka Forever Emmanuelle - written and directed by Emmanuelle Arsan
  • La Marge (1976) ... aka Emmanuelle 77 - starring Sylvia Kristel
  • Néa (1976) ... aka A Young Emmanuelle - written by Emmanuelle Arsan
  • Emmanuelle: A Hard Look (2000) - documentary about the Emmanuelle film

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Emmanuelle" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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