February 28, 2006

BANNED ! THE STORY OF O (A.K.A HISTOIRE D'O) (1975) REVIEW 6


Whilst we’re in ‘The Image’ frame of mind, we should use this time to look at a movie hot on the heels of it.

As Radley Metzger was to hardcore, so Just Jaeckin was to soft core; regarding all things leather & fetish !

The underrated director of the box office smash ‘Emmanuelle’ (1974) brought S&M into the mainstream further than it had ever gone before. He adapted Pauline Reage’s scandalous novel to the silver screen, this has to be the contender for the best soft core film ever made.

Unfortunately ‘L’histoire d’O’ was bound and gagged from the poor Brits (you got to feel sorry for ‘em!) for nearly 25 years ‘O’ first got her legitimate rating from the cobwebbed ones from Soho square in 2000.

The only cuts suffered were not to the highly erotic sex scenes but to approximately 8 minutes and 15 seconds of dialogue, this miraculously first dawned on British Shores when channel 4 (thank fuck for 4!) showed the French language version complete. The French DVD also has this missing footage intact, I believe the Arrow distribution used these under the dubious ‘missing footage’ where they were presented without sound???!!!????


Definitely (and this is no snobbery) this has to be seen in its own language than the English botch. Another interesting thing I noticed is the French has a female voice-over whilst the British a male. Something we brush over but on further viewings one realises just how much integrity has been lost due to gender substitution.

THE PLOT

‘O’ played by the hypnotically beautiful and perfectly figured Corinne Cleary is a successful photographer based in Paris (my favourite city!!!!!!)

In the beginning we see her taken to the gothic nouveau ‘Chateau Roissy’.


At the Chateau ‘O’s transformation and ultimate sacrifice for love begins. Her emotional and physical boundaries are stretched to their limits and beyond in exquisitely photographed tenderness. Such is her love for Rene (played by Euro sleaze lord-of-theatrics Udo Kier) ‘O’ endures all manner of degradation. The purity of the love she has for him is so strong this carries her through the most vulnerable moments.


Back in Paris ‘O’ is given to an older man ‘Sir Stephen’ played by the wonderfully gentlemanly Anthony Steel. Renes’ instruction is only to please Sir Stephen.


Sir Stephen indulges in varied mind games with ‘O’, then she realises and becomes perturbed by the fact she is merely a pawn status in the misogynist world of men, ‘O’ changes yet again……………………

CRITIC

Jaeckin films as though he is producing a celluloid adaptation of some of ‘O’s photographic work. If mid 1970’s ‘Vogue’ magazine needed a movie to put their name too, this film could have been a very strong contender indeed but unfortunately due to the subject matter would’ve been largely ignored. The gloss oozes from the screen, sepia tints and dressage combined to provide such a sophisticated experience.


Such delight can be seen in image and heard in soundtrack (Bachelet never really lived up to this one much after such an epic sound. The suite is a combination of dark psychological depth and sweet melancholy that can be enjoyed separately whether familiar with ‘O’ or unaware.

Once again Corinne Cleary must be mentioned for her superb acting capabilities as the titular character. I have never been in awe at someone who could experience, share and create so many facets of one character that all gently flow so well. Cleary is so beautiful and because of this we respect the character deeply and admire her endurance than if it was some contemporary peroxide silicone tittied alien face.


Cleary’s portrayal of ‘O’ simply demands respect and she manages this without hysterics just gentle submissiveness that is equally dominating it seems, all at the same time.

As mentioned in ‘The Image’ the subject matter caused controversy, in some of the instances littered throughout the movie we can see a relatively explicit revelation of this fascinating environment. If you are no friend of pain then these sequences may be a little difficult to stomach, but because of the high production and quality direction this could possibly nullify such ‘shock’ imagery.


Please remember dear reader this is not an insight into the world of most but an insight into everyday world of some, and should be respected as such.

Due to the sheer craftsmanship of Jaeckins direction and the abstinence of vulgarity comes a real class A affair. His relishness of the female aesthetic is flattering and this is stylishly accomplished, writhing bodies seem illuminated through soft focus living studies of erotic form. Every lash of the whip causes the body to tense, definition fervently enhanced by perspiration adds to the heavy perfumed air of a soft core masterpiece.


As anticipated ‘O’ did achieve enough interest to be a success but it didn’t, unjustly in my opinion, become or reach the nadir of its sister ‘Emmanuelle’.

‘O’ spawned two sequels there’s The Story of ‘O’ Part II which I have read is pretty awful and lacks everything that made its predecessor a success. I haven’t seen this and will not be in a hurry too either. The awful ‘80’s synthesiser soundtrack is appalling and if this is an indication of what visually can be seen then it must be awful beyond belief.

A mini series from Spain surfaced in 1996 and was literally translated to the very word but this caused minor interest and was not a patch on the integrity and pure style of the original.


One of the more sophisticated sequels was ‘Story of O 2 –Fruits of Passion’ starring Klaus Kinski, who does more than simulate on occasions I recall, but fair play, there’s nothing like throwing oneself into a role all the way to bring out your best maybe.

This 1981 film is a bowel loose adaptation of Reages ‘Return to Roissy’. This sees O and Sir Stephen ending up in a Japanese whorehouse where O is left to unwillingly solicit herself whilst Sir Stephen whores it about with varied other conquests. There are some odd surreal characters, dream like cinematography and mid-hardcore sequences that passes he time but is not a patch on Jaeckins definitive on the subject.


It was smashing to see the full French uncut version of ‘O’ on the television, it was pleasing to know that this controversial but chic S&M opus could finally reach a national audience to appreciate it first time around - rescued from the abyss of unjust censorship.


OUTSTANDING MOMENT

‘O’s chastisement by the black maid revealed to a shocked admirer.




The Year ; 1975

The Country; France

The Director; Just Jaeckin

Music; Pierre Bachelet

My relatives are; The Image , The Story of Joanna , Maitresse

Fully uncut version reviewed

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