Local Opening date: 8/17/2007
Reviewed by Martha K. Baker
Yes, the title of this French film is not Lady Chatterly's Lover because it's based on a short story by D. H. Lawrence, entitled "John Thomas and Lady Jane." This film is not based on his novel called Lady Chatterly's Lover. Lawrence's short story does not end the way the book does and the gamekeeper's name is Oliver Parkin, not Mellors, but the short story and the film keep most of the other elements.
Lady Chatterly - Constance is her given name, Connie her nickname - is married to Sir Clifford. He was injured in The Great War and is paralyzed from the waist down. She is a very intelligent woman, who hides her intelligence from her husband, who sees her as a good chatelaine of Wragby, their home.
We see her as incredibly bored. She picks up and promptly puts down her embroidery, she writes a few letters, she confers with her maid about today's clothes, she visits a friend with a new baby. She goes for long walks around Wragby, and on one of these walks, she espies the gameskeeper bathing in the yard in front of his hut. He's naked to the waist and leaning over the pan of water, and she sees his back, his muscular back. And she wants him.
Several meetings later, and she has him. And he, her. Thus begins an affair of the heart and other assorted organs, most of which are visible to the naked eye in the course of the film. He teaches her to be less modest, more sensitive to caresses until she reaches the point where she runs out of the hut naked as a jaybird to dance in the rain. He follows.
Lady Chatterly is a French film of an Englishman's attempt to define love, but Lawrence could never get into a discussion about love or sex without bringing up social class and the economy. For example, Sir Clifford runs the mines and the miners do strike. Parkin is lower class and he's very aware of his station at Wragby whereas Connie barely notices it because she's upper class.
Pascale Ferran respects Lawrence in that she does not leave out these political aspects of his work nor does she play coy with the sexual parts. She is a forthright Frenchwoman intent on showing the complexities of life but also the beauty. Indeed, many of her shots read like artistic still lives - the camera holds on Connie's hands in her lap or as she watches the snow from a window. Ferran captures the natural beauty of the seasons with as much detail of sight and sound as Ken Russell in "Women in Love" in 1969.
Ferran needs those lingering shots of nature to exploit Lawrence's themes, but they do make the movie nearly 3 hours long. Lady Chatterly is beautiful and political and sexual.
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