Movie: The Story of O
Thought of as a classic tale of erotica, this compelling rendition of Dominique Aury's sensuous, kinky novel excels at evoking a response, whether it be arousal, revulsion, or perhaps a mixture of both. Brought to the screen by the 1970/80's master of art-erotica Just Jaeckin, best known for the original Emmanuelle and the immortal classic The Perils of Gwendolyn in the Land of the Yik Yak, The Story of O marries sumptuous cinematography, dramatic orchestral flourishes and a whole heck of a lot of female nudity as it tells the sordid tale of "O", a woman "given" to her masochistic lover's even-more-masochistic brother to settle a debt. While under the brother's ownership, she undergoes a ritualistic regime of sexual domination and obedience.
Not for the lighthearted, even by today's standards a lot of The Story of O's content is startling and even wince-inducing. The whipping scenes in particular hint at the same type of pleasure-from-pain as Clive Barker's Hellraiser, only here there's a much finer line drawn between the two. Rape too seems part of the recipe for building the perfectly trained woman, so again, picking this up for an intimate night in with a new friend might not be one of the better decisions.
Starring the absolutely stunning and perfect-bodied Corinne Clery as O, Jaeckin found a perfect lead: a considerable gift of the director's considering his casting of lovely leads such as Sylvia Kristal and Tawny Kitaen in other films. Clery for her part doesn't only bear herself physically (over and over again), but also emotionally. She balances a necessary frailty with a surprising hardness that don't seem incongruous, and she creates a memorable, if enigmatic character for all of cinema, not only the erotic niche. She is supported by many a nubile young lass including fellow concubines Martine Kelly, Albane Navizet, Florence Cayrol, Eva Carson and Judith Novak. She is also flanked by a learned-but-often-victimized older woman (Nadine Perles, who resembles a Billy Bathgate-era Francis Fisher) and a sadistic den mother (the surprisingly fine-bodied Christiane Minazzoli). Later seeking solace and love in the arms of another woman, O falls seduces a beautiful blonde model (Li Sellgren), but soon her stories of her sexual travails entice the her lover to mix it up with those responsible for O's broken sense of intimacy. In one scene, even the unassuming maid (Laure Moutoussamy) is brought into the shenanigans occurring in O's fevered fantasies. Indeed, this movie is rich with sex, nudity and perversion.
Highly recommended for fans of erotic cinema and for those enticed by the "dark side" of sex, The Story of O was a deserved controversial film when it was released and remains an excellent debate topic among cinephiles. Is it smut? Is it demeaning to women? Is it erotic? If nothing else, it would make for good conversation over a bottle of fine red wine.