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)