Filmmaker Pola Rapaport's interest in the erotic novel Histoire d'O, first published in France in 1954, began when she was a teenager, furtively sneaking glimpses at her older sister's copy of the notorious dirty book. In 1994, the identity of the writer behind the pseudonym "Pauline Reage" was revealed in a New Yorker article: She was 87-year-old Dominique Aury, a longtime employee of the respectable French publishing house Editions Gallimard. Fascinated, Rapaport set out to meet and learn more about the woman whose writing had so enthralled her. Her slim but informative documentary combines interviews, archival footage and elegantly lurid enactments of scenes (including a brief hardcore shot) from the novel, in which a young woman is taken to a mysterious chateau and trained in the rituals of extreme sexual submission. When Story of O was first published by brash young editor Jean-Jacques Pauvert's Sceaux Press, already notorious for having put out the complete works of the Marquis de Sade, speculation about the author's identity was rampant, but it was generally believed to be the work of a man. Popular money was on literary lion Jean Paulhan, editor of La Nouvelle Review Francaise and a member of the Academie Francais, who wrote the preface that called Histoire d'O the "most ardent love letter a man had ever received." Paulhan, who discreetly let the rumors swirl as they would, knew whereof he spoke: Aury wrote Story of O for him, scribbling feverishly in bed throughout the night and then rising to work at Gallimard. A woman of formidable intelligence, passionate devotion to books and modest appearance, Aury hoped it would keep Paulhan — some 20 years her senior, married and a notorious womanizer — from straying; the name "Pauline Reage" preserved their secret and protected her parents from scandal. Their relationship endured for the better part of 15 years, until his death. The Aury whom Rapaport eventually met is a slender, straight-backed, neatly dressed woman with a sharp memory and a clear-eyed sense of her own strengths and frailties. Rapaport interviews a well-chosen mixture of commentators — including Pauvert; Barney Rosset, who published the book's first American edition; journalist John de St. Jorre, who unmasked Aury; and various writers who situate the book in its literary and historical context — but no voice is more vivid than that of the writer of O, who died in 2002.
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: NR
- Review: Filmmaker Pola Rapaport's interest in the erotic novel Histoire d'O, first published in France in 1954, began when she was a teenager, furtively sneaking glimpses at her older sister's copy of the notorious dirty book. In 1994, the identity of the writer b… (more)