Death of Just Jaeckin, the director of Emmanuelle, at the age of 82

This artist, who loved women so much, to whom we owe the invention of pleasure in French cinema, specializes in this register and has produced the greatest successes of erotic cinema.

The rattan armchairs owe him a lot. On the poster, Sylvia Kristel sat shirtless in this exotic seat. Upon release, onlookers flocked to Pier Import stores, asking vendors if the actress was included in the purchase.

Emmanuelle, in 1974, was a success as considerable as it was unexpected. At the Champs-Élysées, the Triomphe programmed the film for more than ten years. To see this curiosity, the Spaniards crossed the border by coach to jostle in the rooms of Perpignan which also projected The Last Tango in Paris, the two feature films being prohibited in their country. It must be said that the work was instructive. We discovered a rather new way to draw on your cigarette – the method, rather sporty, was ideal for reducing your tobacco consumption. In the process, we learned how to occupy ourselves usefully in the toilets of Paris-Bangkok flights. A nice gourdiflot plunged into the delights of Sapphic and multiple loves, in the middle of pagodas and expatriates. For context, Marika Green was called Bee. Christine Boisson, almost a child, was fearless (what has become of her?). Nudity was fine. Alain Cuny, in his white linen suit, dispensed august advice to furnish the nights of insomnia. The monotonous comedian initially refused to have his name appear in the credits. The admission figures (9 million in France in 1974) quickly made him change his mind.

Emmanuelle, played by Sylvia Kristel, in the film Emmanuelle, directed by Just Jaeckin in 1973. DPA/ABACA

“Erotic”, we used to say that. Above all, it should not be confused with the products classified X, distributed in the streets near the Saint-Lazare station. Inadvertently, Just Jaeckin had hit the jackpot. This boy born in Vichy in 1940 had to wait impatiently for the Évian agreements: indeed, he did his military service in Algeria, where he was a war photographer. Thereafter, his lens framed mannequins, an activity which involved other dangers. When producer Yves Rousset-Rouard asked him to adapt Emmanuelle, the sulphurous novel by Emmanuelle Arsan which it was rumored had in fact been written by her diplomat husband, Jaeckin accepted with a smile. Jean-Louis Richard, an old accomplice of Truffaut, is in charge of the screenplay. The team takes off for distant and welcoming lands. The heroine, a languid seaweed arrived from Holland, does not know that the role will propel her to the rank of international star.

The man of one movie

A whole era. The Concorde, Giscard d’Estaing, bans on people under 16, the DS 21 Pallas: Just Jaeckin was right on time. He will remain the man of a single film. In 1975, he adapted the scandalous history of O, taken from the book signed Pauline Réage, pseudonym behind which was hiding the deceptively wise Dominique Aury of the NRF. The film is entitled to the cover of The Express, which caused a stir in the editorial staff. Corinne Cléry appeared in the simplest device and chained on the cover of the weekly which had coined the expression “new wave”. We were far from Godard. Jaeckin was going his merry way without worrying about (bad) reviews. His friends underlined his kindness, his eternal Saint-Tropez side, with his tan and his blue eyes. The 7th art was a hobby, a fun. It was not surprising to see him tackle Madame Claudius (1977), with Françoise Fabian, imperial madam of standing. Call girls, another thing from the 1970s. The director tried to propel the brunette Dayle Haddon into the firmament. He threw himself with joyful unconsciousness on Lady Chatterley’s Lover where he found Sylvia Christel. This lèse-majesté crime – no touch on DH Lawrence – earned him a solid volley of green wood, which surely triggered a shrug in his house.

It is not forbidden to bring one’s career closer to that of a Vadim. These two hedonists had started with a bang, then surfed the wave with varying degrees of success. Just Jaeckin had opened with his wife a gallery rue Guénégaud, behind the Institute. Obviously, the Academy of Fine Arts was not made for him. He preferred to cultivate the sweetness of life and had the intelligence to say no to all of Emmanuelle’s consequences. Jaeckin was a sage who never caught the big head. We will remember him for a long time, to a tune by Pierre Bachelet. Good bye, Just.


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