Laure (1976) by Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy)

 Laure (1976)

Laure is also known as Forever Emmanuelle and, unlike many of the films with "Emmanuelle" or "Emanuelle" in the title, it has a legitimate claim to be called a true Emmanuelle film. There is only one legal way that a film could be called "Emmanuelle" with two "m's" - it would have to be done with the permission of Emmanuelle Arsan, who personally owned the European and North American rights to use that name in a film title.

But who exactly is "Emmanuelle Arsan"? For years it has been thought to be the nom de plume of Marayat Bibidh, a Thai woman who was married to a French diplomat named Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane. This theory was substantiated most strongly by this very film, Laure, in which Mrs. Rollet-Andriane has a supporting role, under the stage name Emmanuelle Arsan. (She also appeared on other films as Marayat Andriane, most notably in The Sand Pebbles opposite Steve McQueen, as shown to the left.) Emmanuelle Arsan is also credited as the director of this film and the author of its screenplay, based upon an eponymous novel.

Case proven, right?

Maryat Bibidh


Not quite. Mrs. Andriane may have been the actress known as Emmanuelle Arsan in this film, but she was neither the author nor the director of this film, nor was she the author of the famous books "Emmanuelle" and "Laure." According to the producer of this film, she was simply the beard, and the real author of the Emmanuelle diaries was actually her husband, the diplomat, who was also the director of this film. He had to write the books under a pseudonym in order to insulate his softcore porn career from his career as a diplomat, and when the trail got too close to him, he found it ideal to claim that his wife was the author. After all, the novels were supposed to be first person accounts of a woman who was the wife of a diplomat, so she seemed to the world like the probable author of the stories.

The REAL Emmanuelle!

In the special features of the Laure DVD, producer Ovidio G. Assonitis finally reveals the true story. According to Assonitis, it was Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane who directed this film and who wrote the novel from which sprang his original draft of the screenplay, in both cases using the name Emmanuelle Arsan. His wife used the same name to perform in the film, making it seem as if she had also done the writing and directing. Assonitis was having tea at Fox one day, and they expressed interest in doing another Emmanuelle film, saying they wished they knew how to reach the author of the original. Assonitis said, "No problem," found the Andrianes, got them to agree to their various roles in the project, and Fox came up with the money.

Once filming began, there was a constant conflict between Assonitis and Rollet-Andriane. The diplomat/author was a notorious proponent of free love and wanted to use the film's script to advocate the philosophical case for the lifestyle of sexual abandonment. Assonitis was not interested, and knew that Fox would not be interested, in a dialogue-intense film which focused on boring speeches which justified having a variety of sexual partners to perform a variety of sex acts. He wanted to deliver a film in which those sex acts were actually portrayed. The two men fought over the film's final cut, and Rollet-Andriane became so frustrated by his inability to control the project that he finally asked to have his name removed from the credits.

The final output, whoever may be responsible, is a beautifully photographed film, shot entirely on location in the Philippines on a leisurely 14 week schedule, with a generous budget and a guaranteed US release, courtesy of Fox.

The plot:

Laure (Annie Belle) is a free spirit and the daughter of a preacher living in Manilla. Her vocation is to study social anthropology, at least when she can make the time between her sex acts. She chances to meet a young photographer (Cliver) out to document love with his camera, and they become an item. The anthropology institute run by her father is currently fascinated by an obscure tribe on a remote island that goes through some rebirth every year, hence having many lifetimes each lasting one year. Laure decides there must be an expedition to meet these people and experience the rebirth. Her expedition team consists of Emanuelle Arsan, a professor, and her photographer, who marries her before the trip. Everyone has sex with everyone else except the photographer, who only wants sex with Laure, but enjoys seeing his wife play around. The professor's wife (Michele Stark) is into the swing scene as well, but she is not allowed not make the journey because of her pregnancy.

The producers had originally hired the legendary Linda Lovelace for the part of Laure, but it didn't work out. After Deep Throat, Linda found both drugs and God, and God told her not to get naked in films anymore. Producer Ovidio Assonitis also spoke with God, who suggested he fire the bitch, which is how real life lovers Al Cliver and Annie Belle got the lead roles. God apparently made the right call in this case because Annie Belle was not only delightful as a free spirit, but had real acting talent. Unfortunately, as she mentioned in another one of the DVD's excellent special features, she was an alcoholic, which probably kept her from a bigger career.

Linda Lovelace's version of the story is that she was originally shown the script for a mild R-rated film, which she agreed to do, although she was then married and out of porn, because she had substantial debts and needed the $50,000 fee, which was a lot of money in the mid 70s. Lovelace and her husband flew to Rome to meet with the producer/director and found that the script had been altered. "It went from a beautiful thing to pure sleaze," wrote Lovelace in her autobiography. "It had me going to bed with twelve different people. It had me masturbating with camera lenses. Being with lesbians. Yecccchh!" According to Linda the Andrianes then suggested a foursome with Linda and her husband, with Louis-Jacques saying, "It's important that we all be with each other intimately." Both of the Rollet-Andrianes were interested in sex with Linda. It was at this point that Lovelace dropped out of the project.

In her post-porn days in the seventies and early eighties, Linda became a professional victim and blamed everyone and everything but herself for her former lifestyle, and many people have suggested that her accounts are unreliable, so there is no telling whether we can rely on her memories of this film. Her account does make some sense in the context of the struggle between Assonitis and Rollet-Andriane for control of this script. Presumably Lovelace had originally been pitched a first draft prepared by Rollet-Andriane in which people talked about the relationship between sex and spiritual beauty, but was finally expected to perform in the Assonitis version, in which the talking was replaced by the actual sex. After the departure of Lovelace, the script must have undergone further metamorphoses, because both Lovelace and Marayat Andriane have said that there were to be sex scenes between them, but in the final version of the film the Laure character (which would have been Lovelace) never has sex with the character played by Marayat. Michelle Stark was hired to do the lesbian scene with Marayat, and Stark played a totally different character from the one which Lovelace had originally been hired to play.

By the way, the "outing" of Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane seems to have occurred way back in the 1960s, even before the first Emmanuelle movie was made. Joe Bob Briggs pointed out in his 2002 review of The Sexual Life of Catherine M and his 2001 review of Emmanuelle in Space:

"After all, the French not only came up with "The Story of O" in the fifties, but the novel 'Emmanuelle' by Emmanuelle Arsan in the sixties, which is supposedly a true account of this French wild woman who hung out in Thailand with her incredibly understanding diplomat husband, who didn't care who she went to bed with because he believed in "free love," and a bunch of other rich French people who lived in Southeast Asia and liked to do two things: a) have sex, and b) make long boring speeches about the meaning of sex.

De Gaulle himself hated 'Emmanuelle' so much that he tried to get it banned, and in the course of defending it the publisher had to admit that there was no Emmanuelle Arsan and that the book had been written by a guy named Rollet-Andriane.

De Gaulle never got the book banned, but by the time the film version came out in the early seventies, the new French president, Georges Pompidou, tried to get the movie banned."

Despite the revelations from that first censorship attempt some 40 years ago, all reference books and all online sources continue to identify Marayat Andriane, not her husband, as the real author of the Emmanuelle books, perhaps because "Emmanuelle Arsan" is identified as the writer, director, and co-star of this film, and it is Marayat who actually appears on screen using that name.

The total package is a high C+: a beautifully photographed softcore film perfectly remastered, with great special features, a fascinating back story, and nudity from the woman whose life inspired the Emmanuelle books. If you have any interest in softcore, you should own it!

Severin has again done a wonderful job on restoring a lost film of merit. The film is not available until June 12th for most people, but you can obtain it from Rare Licensed DVDS now, thanks to special permission to ship ahead of release date. Click on the picture below for details.

Laure (1976)

Here are some images from the gorgeous new Severin DVD:

Annie Belle


Michelle Stark (blond), and

Marayat Andriane (as Emmanuelle Arsan)

For reasons not known to me, the version of the film which has survived to DVD seems to be missing some of the explicit scenes which were filmed between Michelle Stark and Marayat Andriane (as "Emmanuelle Arsan"). Here are some images which did not survive to DVD.

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