Sylvia Kristel 1970s Collection
(Sylvia Kristel, et al / 4-Disc Blu-ray + Book + Poster / NR / 2022 / Cult Epics)
Overview: The summer of 1952 had just slipped into the fall when Sylvia Marie Kristel was born in Utrecht, one of the Netherlands’ most prominent cities.
A dreamer and a loner with a near-genius I.Q., Sylvia escaped her often sad childhood with thoughts of dance, music, and especially film.
Those vivid dreams would become a reality before Sylvia’s twentieth birthday when Scorpio Films co-founder Pim de la Parra cast her in Frank en Eva (1973) in a role he had written specifically for his young discovery.
Sylvia’s early supporting work in three memorable Dutch films quickly led her to France after being cast as the lead in Just Jaeckin’s Emmanuelle (1974), which solidified her as one of the most essential and groundbreaking stars of the Seventies.
Sylvia’s career exploded as Emmanuelle became one of the highest-grossing French films in history. Even though Emmanuelle remains her most famous part, Sylvia appeared in well over a dozen more films before the decade’s end, including the four found in this collection.
The set’s two Dutch films are co-starring Rutger Hauer, and Sylvia at the peak of her career. Submitted for the 1978 Academy Awards - Best Foreign Film, Wim Verstappen’s PASTORALE 1943 is a war drama centered on the Dutch resistance during World War II, and also features the debut of Renée Soutendijk.
Painter turned director Paul de Lussanet’s romantic psychological drama MYSTERIES, based on the world famous novel by the Norwegian nobel prize winner Knut Hamsun and shot by renowned cinematographer Robby Müller, also stars Rita Tushingham and David Rappaport.
Filmed and released right after Sylvia became one of the world’s biggest stars as EMMANUELLE (1974), Sigi Rothemund’s 1974 film JULIA is a German sex comedy drama, with Sylvia as a young boy’s first love, foreshadowing her later U.S. commercial hit PRIVATE LESSONS.
Blu-ray Verdict: First up is PLAYING WITH FIRE (Le jeu avec le feu, 1975). When Carolina, the daughter of wealthy banker Georges de Saxe, is reported kidnapped, it is upsetting to him even though he knows it is not true.
The kidnappers have taken the wrong person. The banker hires Frantz a disheveled, seedy detective to find his daughter and hide her safely away. She soon finds herself in a fantasy-land whorehouse, where all kinds of extreme perversions are routinely practiced.
There, a near-double of her father whips and then seduces her. Eventually, she and the private eye escape or leave, having extorted the kidnapping money from the girl’s father.
A series of elegantly kinky erotic tableaux, strung together by a mock-thriller plot, this may be Alain Robbe-Grillet’s most linear and accessible film. Mind you, an accessible Robbe-Grillet is like a good Ben Affleck movie. Strictly a relative term, and allowances have to be made.
The plot has Philippe Noiret as a corrupt tycoon teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Desperate to raise a few francs, he decides to fake the kidnapping of his own daughter (Anicee Alvina) and pocket the ransom. He locks the girl up for safe keeping in a deluxe Art Nouveau brothel, where he himself is a regular client.
In real life, this brothel is the interior of the Palais Garnier - for years the theatre of the Paris Opera. This may be symbolic in some highly obscure way; offscreen voices keep warbling snatches of Il Trovatore.
The randy Robbe-Grillet, meanwhile, indulges in all his usual fetishes: torture, lesbianism, necrophilia. One young lady has a close personal friendship with a mastiff hound!
Participating in the fun and games are a young and exceptionally lovely Sylvia Kristel and French soft-porno legend Joelle Coeur. The images are so glacially beautiful, they look like a Helmut Newton photo album sprung to life.
Yet are we to take this as a serious avant-garde experiment in the style of Alain Resnais? Or is it just a slice of arty smut? Robbe-Grillet himself seems not to know the answer. Or if he does, he’s keeping it well hidden.
The comes PASTORALE 1943 (1978) where in a Dutch village during the German occupation, a small group of badly organized resistance fighters attempt to assassinate a collaborator.
In the movie where Sylvia Kristel received no salary - refusing it, stating that the production could not afford her anyhow - Pastorale 1943 is based on a novel by the famous Dutch writer Simon Vestdijk and is a view on the activities of Dutch-resistance during WWII.
No heroes, these people, but men and women who made mistakes - quite a few - and with human feelings and faults riddled through them, one and all.
For me, the movie gives good insight in how a well meant act of resistance (against the German occupation in WWII) goes awry, due to incompetent and amateurism leadership under which they blindly followed.
The picture it paints of the Dutch resistance is not flattering, but it also shows how difficult it was for the well meaning members to effectively organize themselves and arm themselves against collaborators and traitors.
The cast of the film is great, especially Renee Soutendijk as a farmers daughter and Frederik De Groot as a young school teacher, who is also the leading member of the resistance group.
Rutger Hauer has an impressing bit part as the Nazi brother of De Groot, although he only pops on screen with just five minutes to go and Sylvia Kristel excels in her small roll as Miep Algera.
In closing, Verstappen directed this film with just the right touch, with attention to much of the small details. Also pertinent is the effective camera work by acclaimed photographer Marc Felperlaan.
That is followed by MYSTERIES (1978) where a wealthy visitor to a small town befriends a midget and gets involved with two women as his behavior becoming ever stranger.
Based on a novel of the Norwegian Nobel prize-winner, Knut Hamsun, this romantic psychological drama takes place during the last century and depicts a wealthy mysterious traveler, Johan Nagel (Hauer), who decides to make an extended stay in a small rural town.
He becomes the immediate friend and protector of the town’s much-abused midget (played wonderfully by David Rappaport, himself making his theatrical movie debut) and is tormented by his feelings for two local women - the beautiful yet spiteful and unattainable Dany Kielland (Sylvia Kristel) and the beautiful and innocent Martha Gude (Rita Tushingham).
The movie was shot on location on the Isle of Man, and the picturesque natural scenery throughout adds greatly to the rich atmosphere of the film (nature is a prime element in Hamsun’s novels).
As far as the sex goes, there are some suggestive scenes and nudity, but nothing too explicit. It’s mostly left to the imagination, which is nice (quite unlike most Dutch films I’ve seen).
The acting I thought was first-rate, and Rutger Hauer is well cast as the unfathomable Johan Nagel. It was interesting to see Hauer in his younger days, before he crossed the Atlantic to follow his career in Hollywood (he also learned how to play the violin for this movie!)
The last movie is JULIA (1974) and is all about the titular Julia, a young girl who is trying desperately to lose her virginity.
Julia, entitled after the character Juliet (of Shakespeare fame), covers all the bases of coming of age drama; betrayal, sexual frustration, loss of innocence, and both the joy, and sadness that can come from the first sexual experience.
Nice surreal touches are included here as well, especially when it focuses on this kid’s off-the-wall, wacko family! My sides hurt from laughing so much at the absurd situations and predicaments these people find themselves in!
I have to say, I absolutely love this film, the story, the characters, the gorgeous cast, the pretty cinematography and the wonderful artistic touches, and oh-so much more - and especially the bizarre comedic elements which made this a fun experience.
There are some powerful emotional scenes too, of which I admit I was not expecting, such as the love scene filmed inside the Colosseum in Rome.
Truth be told though, that turned out to be rather heartbreaking and comes complete with a downright distasteful betrayal that nobody should ever have to endure. Regardless, Julia is a right royal gem of a film and I think all fans will enjoy settling in with this the moment they bring it home! Highly recommended. These are all High Definition 1080p (1.66:1 and 2.35:1) presentations enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
New 2K HD Transfers (from original 35mm film elements) and restoration
Audio Commentaries by Tim Lucas, Jeremy Richey, and Peter W. Verstraten
New and vintage interviews with cast & crew
Poster & Photo Galleries
Original Theatrical Trailers
Limited Edition of 2500 copies includes 40-Page illustrated booklet written by Jeremy Richey and Poster with Art by Gilles Vranckx.
From Emmanuelle to Chabrol is a new upcoming Sylvia Kristal hardcover coffee-table book so be sure to CLICK HERE to make a purchase.