Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Éducation Anglaise (1983)

Éducation Anglaise was written and directed by Jean-Claude Roy and released in 1983. It’s not quite a sex comedy but it has some vague affinities with that genre. It’s a kinky period sex melodrama and a truly weird slice of softcore eurosleaze.

Despite its title the film takes place entirely in a girls’ boarding school in France, in 1935. The school in question is very strict, with discipline on the English system. The French were of course convinced that English boarding schools were hotbeds of oppression, flagellation and sexual depravity.

Sylvie Dumarcay (Obaya Roberts) has lost both her parents. Her mother was having an affair. Her father shot her, her lover and himself. Now Sylvie is an orphan. She is the ward of Monsieur Pieron and he’s anxious to keep Sylvie out of his hair while helping himself to her considerable inheritance. He therefore packs her off to a boarding school. The school seems perfect from his point of view. They don’t even allow the girls to come home for holidays, and the headmistress assures him that discipline is very very strict.

With Sylvie out of the way Monsieur Pieron can concentrate on what he’s really interested in, which is engaging in sexual hijinks with the two young, beautiful female members of his household staff (one of whom is played by the gorgeous Brigitte Lahaie).

The headmistress of the school is a blonde, pretty and very feminine young woman with a very pronounced sadistic streak.

Sylvie certainly gets an education at this boarding school, an education with surprising results. She is introduced to the delights of sapphic love, which she enjoys very much indeed. She is also introduced to the reality of the English system of school discipline, which she doesn’t enjoy so much. At first. Later she will come to appreciate that it has certain merits for a young lady with the right inclinations.

The school has a new teacher, Madame Georgina, a very formidable dragon of a lady. She and the headmistress seem to be very fond of one another. The main thrust of the plot concerns that new teacher. The major plot twist isn’t going to come as any real surprise, which is a pity.

The other major plot strand concerns Sylvie’s voyage of self-discovery as she discovers that she has a number of tastes that are perhaps unusual in a well brought up young lady.

Now it must be obvious by now that this is a movie that is much concerned with spanking and lesbianism but it has other much more interesting forms of depravity to offer. The chariot race is a definite highlight. It’s Madame Georgina’s idea. She has obtained two chariots and she has two girls to drive the chariots. But there are no horses. Fortunately it turns out that you don’t need horses to pull a chariot if you have some strong healthy girls on hand. There’s plenty of kinkiness here but it’s clever kinkiness.

This is strictly softcore but there’s quite a lot of frontal nudity. And no sex. The depravity is too odd to be offensive and it’s done in a manner that suggests that we’re not supposed to take it too seriously. It’s sleazy, but it’s good-natured sleaze.

Sylvie is interesting. The surprising development of her sexual kinks does actually make sense. The girls are put in a situation in which they either break or they adapt. Some of the girls do break, but some adapt. Sylvie definitely adapts.

The period setting works quite well. Apart from making the film look more interesting it distances things a bit and helps to make the kinky stuff seem less confronting - it makes things that could have been disturbing seem somehow quaint and picturesque. We can tell ourselves that this is all happening in a kind of fantasy world.

It’s interesting to compare Éducation Anglaise with other movies of around that time dealing with sado-masochism. Sado-masochism was the in thing in the world of erotic films and while Radley Metzger’s The Image and Just Jaecklin’s The Story of O are better films Éducation Anglaise is not entirely to be despised as an attempt to deal with the subject with a bit of nuance.

Jean-Claude Roy made some intriguingly offbeat erotic movies in the 70s and 80s. Scandalous Photos benefits from having Brigitte Lahaie as its star while Justine’s Hot Nights (1976) is totally loopy but fun.

Nucleus Films released this one on DVD on their Naughty label a few years back and it’s still in print. The anamorphic transfer is pretty good. The only extras are an image gallery and a couple of trailer including one for another French 1980s Nucleus Films release, Dressage (which is quite a good little movie).

Éducation Anglaise is offbeat, kinky, strange and naughty. If you like those things it’s recommended. If you really really like those things then it’s highly recommended.

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