This version of the second greatest novel ever written (according to a 2007 poll), Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary focuses on the adulterous affairs of the title character and more than any other version to date, on her intoxicating beauty. This is no wonder when you realize Emma Bovary is played by the stunning Edwige Fenech at the start of her long and illustrious career.
Cutting right to the chase, this abridged adaptation (the Italian language version clocks in at under 90 minutes) skips past the early life and first wife of Dr. Charles Bovary (Gerhard Riedmann) and also omits his first meeting with and courtship of Emma. As the movie starts Emma is narrating the story and explains how she is already bored by the dull life with her husband and daughter (the child only appears briefly in couple of scenes).
For the most part, the film follows each of Emma's affair to the letter: her affection for Viscount d'Andervilliers; her seduction by Rodolphe Boulanger and her domination of the clerk Léon Dupuis. The crafty merchant Lheuruex who eventually becomes her downfall appears to be privy to each of her affairs, giving him an even stronger role as the villain and potential blackmailer of the piece. It is at the end that the film takes a left turn from the source material: instead of turning to suicide, Emma offers her body to Lheureux (which to this Emma is just as degrading).
Having primarily appeared in sex romps set in the same time frame as Madame Bovary (circa 1850), Edwige Fenech proves she is capable of carrying a meaty leading role in a costume drama here. Director Hans Schott-Schönbinger aka John Scott also knows how to make the most of this gorgeous woman in front of his camera in nearly every scene and cinematographer Klaus von Rautenfeld photographs the entire film in stunning widescreen format. Of course there is a lot of titillation on show, making this Bovary a strange combination of a chick friendly costume drama with some nudity thrown in for the boyfriends.
Exactly how much nudity depends on which version you are watching. The French version for example has more nude scenes with Fenech, most notably in the pivotal scene in Lheureux's clothes shop. A clip found on Dailymotion reveals there are two different version of the scene: one where she is still wearing underwear and one in which she does not. Similarly, production stills found in a German magazine published at the time the film was released show actresses Manja Golec and Patrizia Adiutori also filmed their scenes with and without (whereas in the Italian version reviewed here they remain covered up.)
8 out of 10
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