Erotic Pleasures (1976)

Making the transition from stylish softcore fodder like The Swinger and Marianne’s Temptations to unexpurgated explicitness, by choice as much as economic necessity as he would insist until his untimely death from cancer at the mere age of 60, Francis Leroi was justifiably proud of his hardcore endeavors, usually signing them under his real name (though he would occasionally resort to the pseudonym of “Jim Clack“) and ending on a high note with 2001’s haunting masterpiece Regarde-Moi. One quarter of a century before, Erotic Pleasures showed the fledgling fornication filmmaker getting his feet wet and his hands dirty for the very first time. The movie remains a good example of the level of sophistication the French adult industry might have maintained if the government hadn’t sucked the life out of it through ludicrously increased taxes that left only minimal resources for actual production if it was to sustain any form of commercial viability. Okay, I know, this is 2012 so it’s probably time to stop flogging this long dead horse in the age of DVD, but historical perspective forces me to assert once more that it wasn’t video but Parliament that killed the Continental porno star !

A simple yet elegantly constructed narrative focuses on a day in the lives of three very different women who occupy the same Paris apartment building. Refined Siegried Cellier, best remembered for “Patrick Aubin” a/k/a Jean-Claude Roy’s Peek Freak, plays lady of leisure Arlène who dreams of meeting a man who’s interested in her rather than her money but finds some highpriced afternoon delight with suave burglar Guy Royer instead. She also has the film’s standout sexual encounter that could serve as a textbook illustration of what Golden Age French skinflicks were all about : a heated fumbling with stalwart Dominique Aveline in the back of a cab whizzing past Paris tourist spots – most definitely including the very phallic by association Eiffel Tower – accompanied by typical wine ‘n’ baguette accordion music !

Schoolgirl Joëlle (gorgeous Maryline Guillaume, the secretary from “Georges Fleury” a/k/a Jean Desvilles’ Les Plaisirs Fous, the movie that marked the debut of superstar Brigitte Lahaie) decides to cut class that day as she wants to lose her virginity, her initial attempts leading nowhere but a half-hearted S&M session played mostly for laughs and a palpitating lesbian liaison with a butch little number who tricked her by promising a tussle with her (as it turns out, non-existent) brother.  Latter’s played by uncredited Jenny Trochu from Jean Rollin’s simulated Bacchanales Sexuelles whose only other hardcore performance came as part of orgy action in Robert Renzulli’s Cathy, Fille Soumise. Passing the school gates, Joëlle bumps into her French professor André Miller (sometimes “Hervé Amalou“, from Desvilles’ Everything Goes) who takes her home for some private tuition, showing her what she has been missing out on.

Already something of a cliché at that time, bored housewife Martine (flaxen-haired Carole Gire, the maid from “Michel Barny” a/k/a co-scripter Didier Philippe-Gérard’s excellent Délires Porno) experiments with group sex at the instigation of naughty neighbor Dolorès Manta, whose big-boned constitution made her a highly convincing dominatrix in the late Alain Payet’s Cocktail Porno. Blink and miss the ubiquitous Jack Gatteau as a belated wannabe participant turned down by the had it up to here Gire. Perhaps as a sign of the times, all the ladies’ free lovin’ only leads to tears before bedtime, making for a moralizing wages of sin coda, a trait this movie shares with the late “Frédéric Lansac” a/k/a Claude Mulot’s equally excellent Suprêmes Jouissances.

There were some very talented people working on both sides of the camera and back in 1976 they could still be bothered to put their best foot forward. Roger Fellous would go on to become one of the most respected cinematographers in an industry not always held in high regard. The soundtrack eschews typical “bow chicka wow wow” porno music for a most eclectic mix creating a distinctive mood for every encounter, contributed to Dany Darras and Jean-Pierre Pouret who would memorably score the Mulot masterpieces A Change of Partners and Shocking!  Leroi’s trusted editor from his respectable ’60s period, Annabelle Le Doeuff (invariably credited by first name only), would frequently return in this capacity all the way through his association with the adult industry.

Directed by Francis Leroi. Written by Leroi & Didier Philippe-Gérard. Produced by Leroi for Cinéma Plus. Photographed by Roger Fellous. Music by Dany Darras & Jean-Pierre Pouret. Edited by Annabelle (Le Doeuff). Starring Siegried Cellier (Arlène), Maryline Guillaume (Joëlle), Carole Gire (as Christine Martin) (Martine), André Miller (as Hervé Amalou) (Hector), Jean-Baptiste Ory (Guy, Martine’s Husband), Dolorès Manta (Charlotte), Gilles Kervizic (Eric), Bernard Petitpas (as Bernard Talbin) (Claude, Charlotte’s Husband), Guy Royer (Gentleman Thief), Dominique Aveline (Taxi Trick), Louison Boutin (Gigolo), Jack Gatteau (Olivier), Jenny Trochu (Joëlle’s Girlfriend) & René Douglas (Joëlle’s Father). Running time : 88 minutes.

The French equivalent of Times Square remains pretty active to this day

By Dries Vermeulen

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