Published in Paris in 1954, “Story of O” was an immediate best-seller/ literary scandal: an elegantly written S&M fantasy that had all the hallmarks of being an autobiographical account of outrageous erotic exploits, written by the pseudonymous Pauline Réage. In 1994, Dominique Aury, a mild-mannered editor for France’s prestigious Gallimard press, revealed her authorship.

Pola Rapaport explores Aury’s inspiration, recreating the world of ‘50s literary Paris and setting it against dramatic sequences that bring the infamous book to life.

The author as well as various French intellectuals expound on the thorny relationship between sexuality and power, submission and freedom, liberation and non-being. Even today, “Story of O” mystifies in its power and confounds in its contradictions. In Aury’s own words: “Purest love demands frightful submission. The prison itself can open the gates to freedom.”

Order the film from or from Zeitgeist Films.

This clip contains the first few minutes of the film.

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