Thailand in the European Cinematic Imagination: The Phenomenon and Legacy of Emmanuelle (Fr 1974)

Author: Alexander J. Klemm, King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology, Thailand
Published: December 9, 2019

Citation: Klemm, A. J. (2019). Thailand in the European Cinematic Imagination: The Phenomenon and Legacy of Emmanuelle (Fr 1974). IAFOR Journal of Cultural Studies, 4(2).


Movie markets in Europe and the United States saw a considerable increase in the number of erotic films in the first half of the 1970s, followed by a transition to predominantly X-rated films in the second half. The development and rapid proliferation of the soft- and hardcore film genres can be attributed to the Sexual Liberation Movement of the 1960s, changed viewer expectations, the liberalization of film exhibition laws, and the development of new film technologies. A substantial number of European erotic and pornographic films were made in Thailand. The film Emmanuelle (Fr 1974, dir. Just Jaeckin) marked the beginning and became an international box-office hit, followed by several French, Italian, Swiss, German, and Danish productions that sought to ride on the wave of Emmanuelle’s success. This article seeks to give a concise overview of Emmanuelle’s legacy, that is, European adult-oriented films made from 1974 to 1980 because they shaped western representations and popular perceptions of Thailand for many years. It seeks to explore the cinematic portrayals of Thailand in selected films to determine the extent to which the country plays a significant role as a setting, and it explores the relevance of western interracial desires as well as the films’ appropriation of the enduring allure of the East felt by many Europeans.


Bangkok, exploitation cinema, interracial, Orientalism, representation, Thailand