I first read about this movie in Ramsey Campbell's hilarious and colorfully titled article "Pulsating Posteriors and Masochistic Misses", which surveys the "schoolgirl chastisement" films--apparently a popular genre of films in Britain in the 1980's all centering around ridiculously over-age "schoolgirls" being spanked and paddled on their bare butts while they squirm and unconvincingly protest. This is a French version of one of those films, and leave it to the French to make an arty, big-budget affair with a genuine period setting and way too much plot to get in the way of the spanking. (It's probably safe to say that this is the "Citizen Kane" of "schoolgirl spanking" films).
It starts with a couple in bed at a hotel when the woman's husband bursts in and shoots them both and himself. It turns out these were the parents of the protagonist "Sylvie" and she is now an "orphan" (which is all patently ridiculous as the actress playing "Sylvia" looks to be about twenty and the actress playing her "mother" only a few years older). She goes to stay with her godfather, but in a very un-French manner he is much more interested in playing around with his homely maids than in caring for the nubile "Sylvie", so he sends her to a very strict boarding school (which apparently caters exclusively to sexy 20-year-old girls like "Sylvie"). The school is supposedly modeled on the "English"-style of education (thus the title), but it seems more modeled after the Marquis de Sade. Every minor infraction is grounds for a bared-ass whipping or worse. Though no one seems to notice, the assistant principal is an obvious male transvestite hiding out at the school for some reason. After much suffering, "Sylvie" eventually decides if she can't beat 'em, join 'em (and THEN she can beat 'em). She gives up her virginity to the transvestite and becomes the "head girl" (in more ways than one)and gets to mete out discipline to her fellow students (and they apparently need A LOT of discipline). The moral here is very much in the spirit of DeSade--an innocent "Justine", abused by everyone, eventually becomes a "Juliette" who prospers by wallowing in vice.
If you're looking for a simple spanking flick, you're going to be disappointed by the plot and all the digressions. But personally I find ALL fetish movies boring and repetitive after awhile regardless of the appeal of the fetish. If you're more of a polymorphous pervert though this also has straight sex scenes, lots of lesbianism, and interesting shower scenes where gaggles of naked girls climb en masse in and out of a single tub while their fellow students or the elderly caretakers pours water (or milk?!) on them. There a tasteless scene where a girl is made to strip and act like a dog, but it's mostly tasteless because she's a Jewish girl whose parents have "disappeared" (this is set right before WWII)without paying her tuition, leaving her to be singled out for extra abuse. There's also a downright bizarre "chariot-racing" scene with some of the girls having to be the "horses" complete with whips and bridles.
I actually wouldn't recommend this either to SERIOUS fetishists or to humorless puritans, but it's pretty entertaining in its own weird way.
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