Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Understanding "Emanuelle in America" (Part 1)

Make no mistake, the primary goal of Emanuelle in America is to be sleazy soft/hardcore porn, depending on which cut you see. However, I strongly suspect historically awful filmmaker Aristide Massaccesi, more widely maligned as Joe D'Amato, was actually trying to mingle art and social commentary into his typical genre-goulash. Right off the bat, these are hedonistic Italians setting their gonzo romp in the puritanical United States. Besides, D'Amato had three writers on this instead of hacking out something on his own, so he must have taken it seriously. Indulge me...

The very first image is of the Roosevelt Island sky tram, then of Emanuelle inside, taking in the view like an angel surveying Sodom as she descends into the mire. The name Emanuelle is a feminine derivative of the Biblical Emmanuel, meaning "God is with us."Emanuelle as always represents the sexually empowered female, yet she next strides uneasily past the neon lights of a peep show. Emanuelle walks the streets of New York City in a stylish and stark white suit. Perhaps the white represents her unadulterated, enlightened being, and the cut her sophistication. She is juxtaposed against the gray, grimy city of hustlers and eccentrics. Emanuelle struts down a busy street, surrounded by skyscrapers like randy cocks on the boulevard.

Scenes are intercut of Emanuelle in her achromatic studio, taking photographs of beautiful, liberated nude women astride a black motorcycle. The decor is provocative, artistically interpreting the female form through fruits and ornamentation. Emanuelle is the beholder, capturing the world through her lens, and adjusting the lighting as needed. When the film finally settles in at the studio, we see it through the eyes of a voyeur glancing in on Emanuelle's Heaven, but our line of sight is entombed by an ebon border.

We next see a fellow named Howie looking at himself in the mirror, then bidding the girls adieu. How is Howie? He seems fine, and represents a healthy, good-natured homosexuality. However, even though Howie clearly has a place in Emanuelle Heaven, that role must be denied in the eyes of America, and he vanishes.

Emanuelle talks with the models as they dress, balancing their obvious objectification with their Earthly reality. One model is named Jane, a feminine derivative of the most common male name in Christiandom, John. Jane mentions her John, or rather Tony, her new intellectual boyfriend who refuses to have sex. Everyone then exits Emanuelle Heaven for the city, and our heroine gets into her blue car, representing calm emotions, the sky, and even the Virgin Mary. She is almost immediately thereafter held at gunpoint by Jane's boyfriend. This is Tony, an abbreviated version of Anthony, as in the Catholic saint who founded Christian monasticism. Tony is a chaste religious nut who believes killing Emanuelle will somehow strike back against the pervasive and perverse sexuality of the 1970s. Like many Americans, Tony believes his conviction will prove his righteousness to the entire world, regardless of his means. Tony barely acknowledges the rule of law, assuming he will be judged innocent of any crime through the truth in his actions.

Emanuelle tries to be reasonable, offering her money and car, to no avail. While the beau rants, Emanuelle plays with his mind and his tallywacker, until he doesn't know whether he's coming or going. The entire time, Emanuelle is behind the wheel of a big American automobile, symbol of the emancipation of Yankees from the farm and the flock to urban life. The gunman leaves his pistol behind as he runs from the sexual responsibility Emanuelle and the car represent. Through her worldliness, Emanuelle has taken Tony's surrogate penis, never fired, and initiated him in the use of his actual member. It's worth noting that "Anthony" was once routinely confused with the Greek word for "flower."

Besides representing America, Tony also raises the subtext of Emanuelle's symbolic nature to text and offers his interpretation for dispute amongst the audience. Tony informs the viewer that Emanuelle is not just a lusty heroine, but an icon for the modern sexuality he views as evil. At the same time, Tony desires Janet, offering Emanuelle a look at a nude magazine cover of his ladylove rather than a wholesome wallet snapshot. Despite Tony's assertions of his piety, it was he who hopped into Emanuelle's "back seat," shoved his "pistol" in her face, and wasn't satisfied until Emanuelle broke down his facade. Tony represents the hypocrisy of the religious right, as he flaunts his second amendment rights and lusts in his heart. Tony's jacket is beige, representing his generic, common, Caucasian being. However, under the jacket is a black and white checkered shirt, revealing the struggle with polarity that grips his chest. Emanuelle is ethnic and exotic, with a worldview foreign to his own. She is draped in the whiteness Tony seeks, while his own hand clutches a black gun. While Tony is erratic and aggressive, Emanuelle is calm, and gently explains her and Jane's world like a priestess to a hesitant convert. Further, Tony recalls a memory associating his mother with an unnamed sexual act. This by extension associates his maternal love with Jane and Emanuelle, projecting his Oedipal confusion onto them. In the end, after receiving Emanuelle's kiss to his nether regions, Tony finally connects his emotions to his libido. He runs away until he can resolve this realization in his mind, but shouts "I love it!" Tony flowers, and turns his anger into a sexual love for women.

Emanuelle brings the discarded "pistol" to the favored man in her life, Bill. This can be explained through the entomology of Bill's name. Derived from the Germanic "Wilhelm," the first syllable means "will" or "desire," the second "helmet," or "protection." Clearly Bill is insecure in his masculinity, and desires a surrogate cock of his own with which to protect Emanuelle. This is represented visually by Bill's awkwardly receded hairline, his "helmet" proving inadequate. Emanuelle has no penis envy, and encourages Bill to work out his own through the "pistol" as he sees fit, mostly through posturing. Emanuelle wanders their apartment topless, and expresses her disgust at the experience, offering Bill guidance to accept his own "helmet." Yet, she recognizes Bill's developmental issues, and through her expressed forgiveness and best wishes for Tony unobtrusively extends the same grace to Bill.

Bill wears blue jeans and a shirt buttoned down to his navel, mimicking Emanuelle car and fashion while betraying his crude Western understanding. His entire apartment is colored green, alluding both to the natural life in him that attracts Emanuelle, as well as his childish naivete and jealousy. There are books and artwork along the walls, but these are affectations. More prominent is his bar, displaying the type of fixation with alcohol found in adolescents, confusing the trappings of maturity with its actualization. This is made all the more obvious when his coffee table, which looks and functions like a pack of Marlboro cigarettes, proves to also function as a bar. It is his racing car-shaped bed, and the dazzle of consumer culture.

Emanuelle laments her relationship with Bill, an endless cycle of trysts and underdeveloped affection. Bill makes mention of marriage, but Emanuelle makes jest of it, salvaging his self-esteem with platitudes about personal freedom while recognizing her absence of desire to commit matrimony with a man-child. Bill jokingly threatens to shoot himself in the head, an unsubtle reference to masturbation should Emanuelle refuse him. Emanuelle accepts the circumstances of her relationship with Bill, and submits to his sexual needs, but not without first asserting herself as a responsible adult by rescheduling an appointment on the phone. Bill is giddily enthusiastic, while Emanuelle, even nude, is matronly.

No comments:


Blog Archive


Surrender The Pink?
All books, titles, characters, character names, slogans, logos, and related indicia are trademarks and/or copyright of their respective rights holders.