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Lady Chatterley

A tender, lyrical, and graceful screen adaptation comes what may be the most thoughtful and effective treatment of Lawrence's story to date. "Lady Chatterley," renamed, is a French movie, though this time its director, Pascale Ferran, is a woman. She based her adaptation on a version of the story earlier than the one Lawrence published in 1928, and she brings an unmistakable woman's perspective that provides balance and deepens the themes. The result is not a movie of peekaboo titillation, but a studied, original portrait of sexuality and its role in human relationships. It's nearly three hours long, but that's what allows Ferran to slowly unveil her perspective with cautious, determined, unrelenting realism. Even her camera style is spare and rudimentary, a straightforward, Spartan approach that sometimes, in its ponderous images of the woodsy Chatterley estate, recalls an amateur travelogue from the 1950s. Or, when it focuses on insignificant objects or details, it sports a minimalism evoking French master Robert Bresson. Ferran takes this deceptively ordinary, unadorned, intentionally un-flashy approach in her casting too. Marina Hands, who plays the noble woman, Constance, whose husband was paralyzed in what we call World War I, and Jean-Louis Coulloc'h, the gameskeeper who catches her fancy, are decidedly plain. Hands, however, exudes a fragile warmth and tenderness, while Coulloc'h is masterful as a kind of alienated, human ape who slowly reveals sensitivity and bedrock manliness. "Lady Chatterley," which played in an even longer version on French television and won five Cesar Awards (the French Oscar), explores Lawrence's conflicting class consciousness and charts how pedestrian sex blossoms into profound love. Nature, too, floods the movie in almost every frame, wide shots of vernal woods, colorful flowers, winter snows and downpours of rain. We are both human and beast. "Lady Chatterley" is ponderous, steady, gradually compelling and hypnotic, a film that enhances Lawrence's novel instead of exploiting it.

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Directed by: 
Malcolm Leigh
Running Time: 
French with English subtitles.
Marina Hands, Jean-Louis Coullo'ch, Hippolyte Girardot, Helene Giraardot
Screenplay by: 
Roger Bohbot, Pascale Ferran

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