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Siritzky gives ‘Emmanuelle’ new dimension

Producer Alain Siritzky has brought to Mifed a series of 3-D telefilms based on the adventures of his old friend “Emmanuelle.”

Siritzky and Emmanuelle go way back: In the early ‘ 70s, as general manager of French distributor ParaFrance (a coventure with Gulf & Western’s Paramount), Siritzky wanted to finance a French film with worldwide appeal. He struck gold with an erotic novel by Emmanuelle Arsan about a French ambassador’s wife who is introduced to the art of love in Bangkok.

The tastefully executed “Emmanuelle” proved to be one of the most popular films in French history. In the U.S., the X-rated feature took in a respectable $4 million in 1975 dollars. The film went on to spawn several sequels, although none was nearly as well-received as the original.

A few years back, Siritzky decided to revisit the Emmanuelle character by creating a series of made-for-TV films, which were broadcast in a number of major territories, including Japan, Germany and the U.S.

Now Siritzky has embarked on two new series. One concerns the further adventures of Emmanuelle – this time teaching the art of love to alien creatures. The other, loosely based on the Marquis de Sade’s “Justine,” follows an adventurous student at a conservative Irish college on her steamy escapades in exotic locales. Seven 90-minute episodes of each series are now in post-production.

This time, the telefilms have a new twist: Key scenes are shot in classic 3-D.

Siritzky readily admits that non-computerized 3-D has had only minor success on TV, but he has high hopes for a new German technology called NewOptics. While the system still requires special glasses to experience the full 3-D effect, viewers without glasses see a normal image. With older systems, viewers without glasses saw a fuzzy double image.

Depending on the territory, Siritzky says the glasses might be sold via mail order or in retail outlets. He sees it as a possible promotional opportunity for newer channels to distinguish themselves.

Siritzky is now in pre-production on two new series based on the erotic comic books of Italian cartoonist Milo Manara: “Butterscotch” is about an all-female ballet troupe with an invisible man in its midst; and “The Click,” about a magical box.

Roger Corman’s Concorde/New Horizons provided production facilities and staffing on the “Emmanuelle” and “Justine” series in exchange for domestic rights to the films.

Siritzky has also partnered with Dutch and Irish companies on the new series. Having the Irish company on board allows him to shoot the shows in English, according to French TV regulations, and still qualify as a European show. Non-French European titles can comprise up to 20% of a Gallic broadcaster’s schedule, while 40% must be French-speaking European. Up to 40% of programming can be non-European in origin.

Siritzky ran afoul of French cultural authorities with his previous “Emmanuelle” series, which was meant to qualify as a French-speaking show. Siritzky explains the show was cited by the Audiovisual Council (CSA) for dubbing certain scenes from English to French, forcing him to reimburse M6 for those shows.

Siritzky believes the French quota system is one of several reasons why French films have so little impact in the world market. Because French-language productions are in demand for TV, and therefore fetch high prices, he says French productions tend to be geared toward the small screen.

But there are other forces at work, says Siritzky. “U.S. films work, first of all because the U.S. is a more significant territory, which supports higher budgets. Secondly, because the U.S. is a multicultural country, characters must be universal. In France, we make films with very French content.”

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