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The Story of O(1975)
In this masterpiece of sexual obsession, cinema's original sin returns with its shocking portrait of sexual submission from master of erotica Just Jaeckin (Emmanuelle, Lady Chatterly's Lover). A stunning young woman (Corinne Clery) surrenders herself at a remote chateau at her lover's (Udo Kier) request and is immediately forced into a round the clock regimen of every sexual appetite imaginable. Her submission is total to the orgasmic odyssey that explores the shadowy boundaries between pleasure and pain.
For more about The Story of O and the The Story of O Blu-ray release, see the The Story of O Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 11, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Corinne Clery, Udo Kier, Anthony Steel, Jean Gaven
Director: Just Jaeckin
» See full cast & crew
The Story of O Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 11, 2008
Based on Pauline Reage's novel "The Story of O" (1975) is universally regarded as a milestone in erotic cinema. As controversial as the actual book pic has survived numerous clashes with the censors, even here in America. Freshly remastered "The Story of O" arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Somerville House.
A beautiful young woman (Corrine Clery) is taken to a gothic mansion where her lover (Udo Kier) will introduce her into a world of seduction, pain, humiliation, and ecstasy. She would participate in a ritualistic game where men and women will play their fantasies while following a strict set of rules. Back in Paris the woman and her lover will reflect on their adventure.
A story about an unorthodox relationship The Story of O is still a controversial film many have found to be scandalous, unbearably graphic. Its explicit narrative, as well as unconventional depiction of human desire, is certainly amongst the boldest in mainstream cinema. Not surprisingly, moralistic watchdogs have dismissed it time and time again as pornography.
Yet, The Story of O is far and away from being a pornographic film. It is an erotic film where sex is depicted with style and elegance. It is also an interesting character study, one that uses sex as a pretext to offer an intriguing view on our fascination with humiliation. As such The Story of O is undoubtedly a dirty film as well, one that may not resonate well with those who routinely attach sex to morality.
What effectively splits audiences right down the middle when it comes to films such as The Story of O, however, is the willingness to accept sex as the only key element in a successful story. Some believe that filming explicit sex without promoting pornography is next to impossible. Others disagree. I share the opinion that there are too many critics who tend to mix erotica with pornography and dismiss a large number of films that are anything but exploitative.
Similar to Jess Franco's Jesus in Furs (1969), Mauro Bolognini's La Venexiana (1986), and Tinto Brass' Paprika (1991) Just Jaeckin's The Story of O (together with his unforgettable Emmanuelle) belongs to a genre where desire and sex are typically filmed with plenty of enthusiasm and little financial support. Not surprisingly, there are plenty of scenes here that feel a bit too amateurish. The lighting isn't convincing, the actors occasionally seem a bit too stiff, and the lovemaking scenes perhaps a bit over the top. Yet, the mood is still as seductive and subversive as I remember it. Probably not as dark and corrosive as perpetuated by Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999) but nevertheless quite strong.
I am convinced however that what you really want to know is whether or not The Story of O is worth seeing? Is it a good film? Well, many years have passed since I first saw it and though a lot has changes since then my affection for The Story of O hasn't. I like its subversive tone, I like how it is filmed, and above all I like the fact that it plays with forbidden themes that few mainstream directors would have the guts to tackle. Sure, it certainly looks dated but I suppose this is what makes it charming, a little less serious than what some of its vehement opponents claimed it was more than thirty years ago. Simply put: for the genre it represents The Story of O is a great film!
The Story of O Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC, and granted a 1080p transfer The Story of O arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Somerville House Releasing.
There is a lot to be pleased with in this new transfer of Just Jaeckin's cult picture The Story of O. As long as you understand how the film was shot, its history, and could have and could have not been achieved in an HD presentation! With this small disclaimer out of the way, I must note that personally I am very satisfied with what I have in my hands. Somerville House Releasing have delivered a print which reveals good clarity and detail, a color scheme which is very much in tune with the dreamy look of the film, and a degree of contrast which I believe is the best that has been achieved in any format. Of course, the key issue here is understanding how good Just Jaeckin's film could look. If you expect to see a lush, well-defined, and bursting with colors print then you are in for a great deal of disappointment. If you, however, expect to see the heavy grain of The Story of O preserved, the dreamy, at times, misleadingly faded-looking, color-scheme intact, with plenty of dirt being removed from the actual print, then you will really like what the Blu-ray release offers. Let's be honest here, this is a cult erotic film which will never look as good as a restored Last Tango in Paris. If anything, it would look on par with what a restored Sergio Martino, Ugo Tognazzi, or Mariano Laurenti film from the early 70s would look like in HD. And as far as I am concerned if you are interested in classic erotic European cinema this print of The Story of O is probably the best treatment the film will boast in a very, very long time. Finally, I specifically wish to comment on the fact that the Blu-ray transfer appears to have eliminated a lot of the annoying specks and scratches noticeable on the SDVD. As far as I could tell this print appears to have been cleaned up quite a bit. (Note: The Blu-ray release is Region-free therefore you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographic location).
The Story of O Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Three different tracks are available: English Dolby Digital 2.0, French Dolby Digital 2.0, and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0. First of all I would like to clarify something: The Story of O was composed in the same manner a lot of Italian gialli are – they relied and utilized post-production overdubbing where the actors rerecorded their own lines. Furthermore, I've always seen this film projected in English. I am aware that the French track is being regarded by some as the original audio track but the fact of the matter is the actors utter an overwhelming amount of their lines in English.
This being said, the audio treatment here is solid. The dialog is very easy to follow and the marvelous soundtrack by Pierre Bachelet comes off the speakers much more convincingly than what I hear produced by my SDVD. I am unsure how expansive the restoration efforts have been in the audio department but it is quite obvious to me that the audio is stronger, better balanced, and without any disturbing drop-outs, hissing, or cracks. Subtitles are not provided for any of the three tracks (small bits of imposed English subs are available when the French track is on). Finally, I quickly wish to note that I also spent some time with the French track which isn't bad at all. The narration is quite well done and as far as I could tell there aren't any issues with the technical presentation.
The Story of O Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
On this Blu-ray disc you will find the original French and English trailers for the film, text-format biographies for Just Jaeckin, Udo Kier, and Corinne Clery, as well as a gallery of photos. The back cover of my Blu-ray disc also notes the availability of previously unreleased scenes but such I could not find here. What is even stranger, however, is the inclusion of a full-blown commentary with the director of the film which is entirely in French without English subtitles. I could only guess that it was meant for the French release of The Story of O and it somehow found its way to this disc but the needed sub-track was never included. Nevertheless, if you are fluent in French this is actually quite an enjoyable commentary with plenty of revealing comments addressing the history of the film.
The Story of O Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I am very pleased to see that The Story of O made its way to Blu-ray. I understand that classic erotic cinema isn't everyone's cup of tea but for those of us who have a special interest in the so-called sub-genres (erotica, gialo, cult-horror, etc) this is a very encouraging development. I certainly hope that even more of the smaller distribs will begin releasing forgotten gems which never really saw proper treatments on SDVD. We need them! As to The Story of O I strongly encourage you to consider it if, once again, you appreciate what the genre the picture belongs to has to offer. Or, you simply wish to explore the colorful world of B-cinema. Recommended.
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