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June 19, 2006

Gwendoline

gwendoline.jpg

Just Jaeckin - 1984
Severin Films Region 0 DVD

I was recently surprised to find that I had been added to the screeners list for a new company, Severin Films. At this point, based on the two films that make up their catalogue, it appears their specialty is soft-core adult entertainment. The photo of the staff with Senior Jesus Franco suggests there may be some interesting titles to be offered in the future.

Severin Films' debut is curiously, the last film by Just Jaeckin. My only previous . . . um . . . exposure to Jaeckin, was with his debut, Emmanuelle, made back in that point in time when a major Hollywood studio, in this case Columbia, had no qualms about releasing X-rated films following the success of Last Tango in Paris. I haven't seen Jaeckin's other films, but my significant other assures me that his version of The Story of O is quite good. Gwendoline features an unexpected link with the French New Wave by featuring Bernadette Lafont (above left) as the queen of an underground amazon society. Lafont made her acting debut with Francois Truffaut's short film, Les Mistons. For those who get their French filmmakers confused, keep in mind that Truffaut later made Un Histoire d'Eau, while Jaeckin filmed Histoire d'O.

Jaeckin's film here is based on the erotic comic by John Willie. Jaeckin, as indicated by the shot above, has an eye for composition, but the DVD supplement of his photos of star Tawny Kitaen indicates that his strength is with the still camera. Jaeckin begins Gwendoline with some spectacular travelling shots that were elaborately planned, yet the film ultimately is at best cute if not silly. Jaeckin's photo essay of Kitaen for the French magazine "Lui" overflows with the eroticism that is missing from the film. Kitaen is the selling point of this film, and certainly there is more to see of her than in the Tom Hanks' vehicle, Bachelor Party. The biggest difference between Jaeckin's film and John Willie's cartoon, based the few examples of his work that I've seen, is that the cartoon characters, especially the women, are larger than life with exaggerated features. As attractive as the young Tawny Kitaen was when she made Gwendoline, neither she, nor the other actresses, save Bernadette Lafont, have the ability to dominate the screen with their presence. Even worse, while John Willie's cartoons embrace and celebrate his idiosyncratic universe, Just Jaeckin's film suffers from timidity and too much good taste.

Posted by peter at June 19, 2006 07:00 AM