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Lady Chatterley

Lawrence, Re-imagined for the 21st Century

Seventy-nine years after D.H. Lawrence wrote the first edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, his tale of the lonely, aristocratic wife who experiences a sexual reawakening in the arms of a rugged gamekeeper has lost its scandalous edge. The notion that a newly liberated woman could remedy her marital malaise with a passionate affair is no longer shocking -- it’s practically quaint. Yet the story itself has lost none of its charm or insight.

That’s good news for director Pascale Ferran, whose adaptation of Lawrence’s classic (based on the second, and slightly less notorious, of three editions) captures a delicate balance between raw lust and true love. When Lady Chatterley (the wonderfully vibrant Marina Hands) begins her affair with Parkin (Jean-Louis Coulloc’h), their initial encounter is hurried, driven more by a flash of uncontrollable desire than any sustained emotion. He is a rough-hewn physical specimen; she is detached and consumed by carnal cravings her paraplegic husband (Hippolyte Girardot) cannot satisfy.

But Lady Chatterley is not simply about the titillation of unrestrained eroticism. It is about sexual expression, and how physical chemistry can translate into lasting affection. Indeed, Constance Chatterley first regards Parkin as forbidden fruit of sorts, but as she finds real happiness in his eager embraces, their affair seems less a betrayal than a vital exploration for two wandering souls.

At nearly three hours, Lady Chatterley is slightly self-indulgent, though it rarely drags. Inspired by a story known more for its once infamous, explicitly worded sex scenes than its tender understanding of the relationship between physicality and feeling, Ferran’s film doesn’t always follow Lawrence’s script to the letter, but it captures the underlying beauty of his sentiment.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars