Hollywood just did not know what to do with Sylvia Kristel. By the time the Dutch actress made it to America a few years after becoming a worldwide star (well, everywhere except here in the US) from her appearance in and as Emmanuelle and two sequels, she ended up working in a few American movies that ranged from passable to flat out wretched. 1981’s Private Lessons is one of those flat out wretched ones, a “sex comedy” that’s not erotic or amusing at all, but pretty unsettling and when seen in light of modern views of its subject matter, just plain wrong.
Of course, I have to confess that I saw this way back when it was released with some like-minded friends and we though it was going to be the thrill of the late summer only to end up crawling out of the theater in need of a shower and a Men In Black style memory wipe. There’s just a layer of head-shaking offensiveness here that only those with low to no morals would find “thrilling” or even remotely “sexy”. Then again, I don’t want to make poke at someone’s particular proclivities ’til they pop. If this dreck does it for your own tastes, more power to you then. On the other hand, given that real people have gone to real jails for doing what happens here in real life, that fine line between movie fantasy and stark reality is stomped on and wiped away long before this trash-fest is over…
In a nutshell, the film is about a rich 15 year old boy seduced by the poor french maid because the greedy chauffeur is using her in a incredibly stupid and complex blackmail scheme. The plot isn’t even what most people who saw this saw it for, but if you happened to pay attention, stringing together the story was a bad idea. The film is ripe with perky problems from the beginning and don’t get me started on the legal issues of underage sex, no matter how soft-lit and slinky Kristel is. The only redeeming value in the entire experience is the soundtrack that has a few classic rock/soft rock tunes from Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Earth, Wind and Fire, Air Supply, John Cougar and others. Yeah, it’s a mystery how Paramount got all those artists to allow their tunes to be used here, but hey – that’s showbiz I guess.
This is one of those films that has such an air of nastiness to it that it’s a total squirm-fest to watch today. It popped up on cable a few months back and I actually cringed when I saw it on the listing. I only decided to catch it on the last day on was available just so I’d only have a single opportunity to see this after so long. Afterward, I actually felt bad for poor Sylvia because this wasn’t the first and not the last lousy American film she was in. While not what I’d call a “great” actress (her looks made up for limited emotional range), cinema is full of ingenues who got better over time with training. Of course, Kristel didn’t make an impact at all in the US, but managed to appear in about 60 films and TV shows until 2010, write a book and even dabble in directing (an award-winning animated film called Topor and Me).
By the time she passed away in October 2012, some obituaries here labeled her as a mere porn star and not someone who starred in an international soft-core (non-porn) hit that ran for years in some theaters in France. Which is a sad and cruel little double standard in a way, as had she been a “he” and made violent action movies with high body counts and snarky one-liners that showed even less range, she’d be very well remembered for a few reasons by the movie-going masses here. Such is life, huh? Anyway, skip this one unless you’re desperate for company and don’t mind feeling dirty (and not in a good way, either)…
I’ve never heard of this movie, but it sounds like I might like the soundtrack.
Oh, it’s pretty bad, but yeah, the soundtrack is the best part – the song listing:
Air Supply: “Lost In Love”
Eric Clapton: “Next Time You See Her”
John Cougar: “I Need a Lover”
Rod Stewart: “Hot Legs” “Tonight’s The Night,” and “You’re in My Heart”
Willie Nile: “That’s The Reason”
Randy VanWarmer: “Just When I Needed You Most”
Earth, Wind and Fire: “Fantasy”
But, it’s probably better to get the songs from your favorite music service as opposed to watching this disaster…