When discussing the erotica genre in film, it is impossible to abandon the session kept aside for the conference of Sylvia Kristel as both an actress and a person. Coming to prominence in 1974 with her breakout role as Emmanuelle in the French soft-core classic titled likewise, Dutch-born Kristel started off as a model before entering the world of cinema. ‘Emmanuelle’ changed film history upon release, being the highest grossing French film at the time as well as the most widely seen X-rated picture in circulation. During my research of her filmography, I was surprised to discover the sheer artistic beauty present in a good number of her movies, whether they were erotic or not.
The pictures she appeared in bar the one’s part of the ‘Emmanuelle’ franchise have unfortunately lost their grip on the world, and I think it is of the utmost importance that they be talked about, if only out of fear that we may lose some features that really challenged the medium. Kristel’s career is one of great interest to me as well, because while going through the years, it is clear that her talents as an actress (of which she possessed a whole lot) were never truly recognized, and she was slowly losing her status as a sex symbol with which she started off her journey in film. Her passing in 2012 led to the movies losing one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the silver screen. Here is the list of top movies of Sylvia Kristel, which cover the erotica (particularly sexploitation comedies and dramas), horror, and romance genres.
1. Alice or the Last Escapade (1977)
A departure from their careers thus far for both Sylvia Kristel and director Claude Chabrol, ‘Alice or the Last Escapede’ is a lowly gem of cinema that, if seen with the same analytic eyes that are evaluating the artistic merits of one of Tarkovsky’s works, would be lauded with praise. Amply deserving such glory given its unnecessarily long stay in the dumps, the film is an ambient piece of work that supports its idiosyncratic plot with an atmospheric, shadowy visual style. At first glance seemingly something taken right out of the most ancient of horror novels, Chabrol’s careful traversing of his spooky locations offer something new for the books. Kristel plays a role that would make it look as though she was long past her days of being an erotic film actress, although the fact is that she was only beginning to build up her oeuvre as one. Distinctively atmospheric and surreal with its story that sought to bring about a seclusive feeling of loneliness and despair, this is one fantasy masterwork that I hope finds its audience and popularity one day in the near future.
2. Emmanuelle II (1975)
If the purpose of a film that falls into the erotica genre is to excite, then ‘Emmanuelle II’ may very well be the greatest of the lot. Without addressing the abundance of nudity present throughout the film, practically every element that comprises any given scene in the ninety minute run-time is consciously placed so as to bring about a sense of stimulation. The music composed by Francis Lai blunts every other piece of sound in the moments where it is given necessary distinction and revels in its own slow, hypnotic, meditative pace. Going along with the music, character movement is slowed down, made repetitive, and discernible. Making up for its lack of plot and sense of morale, the film gloats over its strange universe that appears to be but a mockery of ours, containing a complete supply of men and women living with no other purpose than to make love. The saving grace is that it is all so beautiful, so memorable, that it works as a sedative, numbing your mind, your thoughts, and your critical sense of thinking.