Joy

JOY (Sergio Bergonzelli/Serge Bergon, 1983)

Joy (Claudia Udy, EDGE OF SANITY) is a fashion model with some daddy issues (her American father having walked out on her and her mother shortly after young Joy accidentally saw her parents having sex).  All grown up and on her way to stardom – in a chick-with-a-gun action film being shot in New York by a director named George Miller (not that one), she leaves her current rock star boyfriend Alain (Manuel Gelin, whose SLOGAN character was similarly cast off by Jane Birkin in favor of the more worldly Serge Gainsbourg) for older, wealthy Marc (Gérard-Antoine Huart, who later made the erotica rounds in EMMANUELLE IV and the film of LE DECLIC) who she believes may be the perfect man for her.

They cruise the neon-lit Paris nightlife in Marc’s Jag and visit various underground S/M clubs (Marc takes Joy for the first time in front of a video camera on a robotic chair in a private studio for the viewing pleasure of some wealthy friends.  Joy’s relationship with her mother is strained not only because of her attachment to her absent father but also because her mother blames her whenever her current stepfather gets a little handsy.  While in New York starring in a chick-with-a-gun action flick (directed by George Miller, but not that one), Joy meets New Agey Bruce (Kenneth Langolois) who introduces her to Tantric sex (and starts looking for Joy’s father behind her back after her tearful confession that “the love of my life is a ghost”).

She continues her search during her modeling assignments (including a dalliance with a Lebanese photographer during an island shoot) but Marc seems open minded; especially since Joy is open to multi-partner sex until she realizes that he sees her as nothing more than a whore (“You are not the type of girl men marry…”).  A surprise phone call (and a convenient telegram) steer Joy to confront her past.

Purporting to be the scandalous memoirs of a pseudonymous French model Joy Laurey, JOY was the first of a series of erotic novels which was adapted to screen and later as a series of softcore cable movies produced by Alain Seritzky; much like the THE STORY OF O, the EMMANUELLE novels and LE DECLIC comics.  Directed by Italian exploitation director Sergio Bergonzelli (as Serge Bergon since this is a French/Canadian co-production), JOY is slick if a little over-long but Bergonzelli knows how to continually top himself with erotic set-pieces; piling more and more lathered and tanned naked, gyrating bodies upon each other once the constant sight of Udy’s perpetually erect nipples starts to lose its novelty value.

Looking like a cross between a young Goldie Hawn and Farrah Fawcett, Udy isn’t a particularly compelling presence (then again, the film doesn’t really have that compelling a plot) but Bergonzelli lets shots of her face and body smooth over the transitions from one set piece to another.  The film is gorgeously photographed throughout by Canadian film industry stalwart Rene Verzier who employs color gels and various natural filters like mesh curtains, diaphanous clothing, and steamed windows rather to keep things visually interesting (late in the film he also uses a nice transitional matte effect and a split screen optical; although a final matte effect before the closing credits isn’t quite as well rendered).  Debbie Davis provides the cloying theme song (“Joy, for love is not a game, you play so he will hold you in his arms” and the like to very eighties French pop synths and electronic percussion).

I first experienced JOY on a Greek VHS of the 95 minute English version.  The print was so battered and the contrasts so harsh that Verzier’s photography looked dreary and murky.  While it is too bad the English track wasn’t also synchronized to this release, the fresh transfer of the 110 minute French version is quite the revelation.  Letterboxed at 1.83:1 and anamorphically-enhanced, Severin’s transfer has some edge enhancement but the grain and some softness in long shots (Verzier uses set decoration like steamed windows and meshed curtains and diaphanous costuming on the actors to diffuse the image rather than on-camera filters) seems to be part of the original cinematography.  There is a 2-3 frame encoding/authoring glitch late in the film (in the scene directly following the Tantric orgy).  The French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound is clear and the optional English subtitles seem error-free.

The only extra is an interview with Claudia Udy (who is American, not Canadian or French as her name might suggest).  She is lively and perhaps takes the whole project a bit too seriously.  She refers to the director under his French pseudonym and observes that he was not an actor’s director (just as well as the visuals are all the film really has going for it).  Well worth seeking out for lovers of European cinematic erotica and a very appropriate title for Severin who missed out on the EMMANUELLE films and THE STORY OF O but have given us some of their better rip-offs like VANESSA, FELICITY, and GWENDOLINE.

                                                                                                                      (Eric Cotenas)

 

Joy & Joan

Joy & Joan (Jacques Saurel, 1985)

Joy returns in this entirely French sequel (this time in the form of Jean Rollin muse Brigitte Lahaie) and she’s still having troubles with Marc (Jean-Marc Maurel) who is younger here and now a roving journalist rather than a businessman.  Joy’s modeling work suffers when Marc finally walks out on her and jets off to Bangkok.  Wealthy friend Bruce (Pierre Londiche) – less New Agey than in the original – offers Joy the world but all she wants is him to take her to Thailand.  Upon arrival, Bruce presents Joy with personal slave Millarca (Maria Isabel Lopez), a diamond ring, and a palace belonging to the creepy prince Cornelius (Jacques Bryland).

For her birthday, Bruce gives Joy 9,125 pearls (“I’ve lived for 9,125 days without you”) and “the gift of pleasure through others” (read: drugs her and makes her the centerpiece of an orgy for his rich friends).  Joy flees Bruce – although Cornelius is never far behind – and runs into Marc who takes her into a photo booth for a quickie before leaving her again.  Fleeing Cornelius, Joy meets tour guide Joan (Isabelle Solar).  Joan immediately confesses her love for Joy and they jet off to the Philippines where Joan’s old boyfriend (one of those eighties guys who thinks he can get away wearing pink tank tops) who owns a hotel.  He puts them up but arranges for them to be kidnapped and taken to a spa/brothel.  Cornelius disrupts the actions and Joan disappears.

Rather than taking her back to Bruce, Cornelius takes Joy to the airport (because she resembles a woman he was in love with; then he gets all creepy again just as we were beginning to feel some sympathy for him).  Joy gets back to Paris and back to work only for Joan to show up on her doorstep.  When Joy goes off for a four day commercial shoot, Joan meets Marc who showed up for a quickie just after Joy left.  Joan obliges him and then confesses to Joy when she discovers she is pregnant (she explains that she wanted to find out how Marc got under her skin).  Ever flexible, Joy finds a way to scrounge up a happy ending.

Jacques Saurel‘s follow-up to Sergio Bergonzelli’s JOY is also based on a novel by the pseudonymous Joy Laurey and is more plot-oriented than the original; but also even more absurd.  Whereas in the original, Joy’s adventures were confined to underground sex clubs and wielding a gun on the set of a cheesy action flick, here she is drugged, raped, kidnapped, and the like as if she were the heroine of one of the later EMMANUELLE film sequels.  Debbie Davis’ theme from JOY is reprised early on as Joy spots Marc on the dance floor of a club with another woman as if to remind us of their prior history but both characters are very different from the way they were in the previous film (besides being played by different actors) in which they had already split before the end.

New composer Francois Valery comes up with a new “Joy and Joan” theme song (“Call it love, call it fun, call it play…”) that plays throughout (even though Joan doesn’t show up until nearly halfway through the running time).  Valery’s vocal “You Need Love” is a bit whiny but the instrumental version is nicely employed and recalls some of Pierre Bachelet’s themes for Just Jaeckin’s GWENDOLINE more than the setting recalls his EMMANUELLE.  Statuesque Lahaie’s doll-like inexpressiveness made her a simultaneously chilly and sensuous presence in her work for Jean Rollin (along with a well-cast bit as the Alida Valli-equivalent in FACELESS, Jess Franco’s sexy, glitzy reworking of EYES WITHOUT A FACE) but here her passivity cements her role as victim throughout (whereas Claudia Udy’s Joy was merely going with the flow for most of the prior film).

That’s not to say, Lahaie isn’t up to the role.  In the rare instances in this film where her expression does crack into a smile or a look of hurt, it is effective.  Solar fares a little better but she’s also a bit whiny in her proclamations of instant love for Joy.  Maurel as Mark has little to do than look decorative.  Still photographer Ian Patrick also plays the photographer in Joy’s opening modeling session.  The film is less visually interesting than the prior JOY film although there’s plenty of nice landscapes and costumes (the scenes in the misty French countryside towards the end of the film and the candlelit interiors of Joy’s country home are a lot more interesting to look at).

Having never seen JOY ET JOAN before, I am not sure just how much Severin’s transfer improves upon previous versions (although I’m sure the R2 French DVD uses the same master) but it is an anamorphic 1.62:1, progressive, single-layer transfer that seems to represent the original cinematography rather well (apart from some edge enhancement) from the bright Thailand settings to the misty and candlelit French chateau setting of the last section of the film.  There are no extras on Severin’s disc but it is recommended for fans of European softcore erotica – it’s not the best but it hits all the right notes – and a solid release from Severin.                                                                              (Eric Cotenas)