Sylvia Kristel


In a cinematic era marked by burgeoning sexual frankness and a more fluid acceptance of movie eroticism, Sylvia Kristel was at the forefront of a cresting wave.

The Dutch actress, who starred in a string of mainstream '70s erotic films including Emmanuelle and its sequels, died Wednesday in the Netherlands after a long battle with cancer. She was 60.

Her agent confirmed to AFP that Kristel, who had been hospitalized in Amsterdam in July for a stroke, passed away in her sleep.

The actress was just 22 years old when she shot to fame in the 1974 French hit Emmanuelle, which told the story of a restless housewife and her sexual escapades in Thailand.

The film was notable for being one of the first erotic films to be shown in mainstream theaters, even though it was slapped with an X rating in the U.K.

At the time, the zeitgeist was ripe for Emmanuelle, nipping at the heels of more hard-core films like Deep Throat, which was released two years earlier.

Although that film was unabashedly sexual, it tempered the cinematic climate enough for the arrival of films like Emmanuelle—with its provocative yet velvet-soft approach to erotica—and for stars like Kristel.

She'd go on to star in several sequels, as well as other sexy dramas like Mata Hari and Lady Chatterley's Lover.

But the decision to play up her appeal as an erotic-film star eventually pigeonholed Kristel, who battled cocaine addiction later in life, and she was all too aware of the double-edged mystique she'd conjured.

"I was a silent actress, a body," she reportedly wrote in her 2006 autobiography, Naked.

Kristel, who was twice married, is survived by a son.

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