Happily engaged to her handsome fiance, Charles, Fanny is soon hit with one misfortune after another until she is forced to become a prostitute to survive. This is the story, with many ...
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Orphaned by smallpox, young Lancashire country lady Fanny Hill cheerfully accepts her friend Esther Davies's offer to join the London 'working girls' with Mrs. Brown, a madam who recruits ... See full summary »
Young, pretty and innocent Fanny Hill has lost her parents and must find her way in life amidst the perils of turbulent 18th century London. She is fortunate enough to find rapidly a place ... See full summary »
Happily engaged to her handsome fiance, Charles, Fanny is soon hit with one misfortune after another until she is forced to become a prostitute to survive. This is the story, with many erotic asides, of her struggle to regain her pride in herself and find happiness in life once again. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
Fanny Hill is by no means a badly made film, but it was a disappointing failure even though it is closely based on a historically important book, John Cleland's "Fanny Hill - Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure", with which most of us born in the U.K. became familiar through Eng. Lit. classes. As I remember these classes, they started with Shakespeare, continued with Shakespeare again, made reference to Christopher Marlowe, recognised the importance of Samuel Pepys both as diarist and historian, and of Boswell as the father of biography, discussed the role of both Daniel Defoe (Moll Flanders) and John Cleland (Fanny Hill) as early writers of novels, and then rapidly progressed into the riches of nineteenth century English prose. Both Moll Flanders and Fanny Hill are erotic novels that have earned a major reputation far beyond the British Isles. The dust cover of my copy of "Fanny
Hill" carried the comment that 'this is one of the most celebrated fictional works of all time', adding that 'it is many years since Fanny Hill was published even clandestinely' and 'open publication is a novelty made possible only by the more sensible standards of our age, and by a deft editorial touch'. This may be an exaggeration - a New York court in 1963 dismissed an application to ban Fanny Hill as obscene with the comment that it does not contain one obscene word. But there is no question that it is an erotic novel.
When any company films such a novel we should surely expect its pedigree to be recognised - the attempt should be made to create an erotic film from any book internationally regarded as a significant piece of erotic literature. Unfortunately this film was created in Britain at the end of the 1970's, a decade when British sex comedies were ten a penny. French directors of this period frequently produced films such as Emmanuelle with genuine claims to be erotic. But contemporary English directors, who could film a romance with sympathy and appreciation, seemed incapable of filming its culmination except as a ludicrous or hilarious performance by the couple concerned. During the decade prior to Fanny Hill, most British sex comedies treated the sex act as intrinsically humorous - we need only remember films such as "Can you keep it up for a week?" or "Confessions of a Handyman". Some were quite well made and remain fun to watch - this is why they constantly reappear on late night television programs - but they are not erotic. However they were the style of film that British directors of the period felt constrained to produce if ever the words "sex comedy" were uttered,. and this style could hardly be less appropriate for a meaningful movie presentation of the classic novel Fanny Hill.
Fanny Hill should have been an important erotic film comparable to Emmanuelle and, like Emmanuelle, it should have remained a film that cinema buffs still periodically search out to view again. Instead it is virtually forgotten - I do not believe that it has ever been released as a DVD, and it would probably not even be easy to buy a tape copy in North America today. The IMDb database currently lists two viewer comments on the film (this should be the third!). Other films with far less potential, but which provide what their viewers expect, continue to generate fresh comments even 20 years later . What went wrong? Fanny Hill is quite well filmed and is a period piece with all the trimmings -stagecoaches on narrow dusty roads, period costumes, delightful old houses etc. This alone usually guarantees success. The acting is probably at least of average quality.
I believe this film failed because the story is treated as a romp which under a different title might have still been watched. Some of the sequences with Mrs Brown's girls viewing what goes on in the various bedrooms through concealed peepholes, as well as the scene featuring a totally uninhibited eighteenth century party, remain quite enjoyable. In a film with lesser pretensions this would have been enough to ensure its ongoing success as a comedy. But here something more was needed. Lisa Foster (Lisa Raines) portrayed an attractive and playful Fanny who, except perhaps at the end when she rushes downstairs to open the door to Charles and is carried upstairs in his arms, seldom appears very involved. Collectively most of Mrs Brown's girls behaved more like seniors in a finishing school than young women forced by economic necessity to market their charms. Eliminating eroticism in favour of humour may be legitimate if no erotic expectations exist; but it is the knell of death for a film based on a classic erotic novel. Some recent British Directors are capable of creating erotic films, and had Fanny Hill been directed by, for example, Ken Russell it might have been much more successful.
One last point - John Cleland's book is written largely in autobiographical form, with Fanny herself relating her experiences as well as explaining how she viewed them. It has been suggested that the book contains nothing but a woman's experiences, and that Cleland must have served simply as a cover for a possibly partly autobiographical book written by one of his female friends. A more recent Brazilian film production under the same name (Fanny Hill 1995 - written and directed by Valentine Palmer) attempts to recreate the story with Fanny's voice alone explaining what is going on during each scene. This sounds an extremely interesting way in which to interpret the novel on the screen, and I would very much like to have the opportunity to see this film. However it is not listed by Amazon, and so far the chance to do so has not come my way.
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