Lady Chatterley

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Lady Chatterley

Everyone knows how D.H. Lawrence's infamous novel was beset by scandal and banned before being hailed as a literary landmark. Few folks seem to understand that its hyperventilating prose was designed to be both titillating and transcendent: the adulterous shtup as a step toward enlightenment. Film versions didn't help, ignoring sacramental subtext in favor of either Masterpiece Theatre stuffiness or generous helpings of beef and cheesecake. Pascale Ferran, however, has changed all of this in one fell swoop; her long, languid take on Lawrence's pro-sex parable is less an adaptation than a reclamation. She not only knows the book's narrative intimately but also bothered to read between its lines, pinpointing every spiritual element to the erotic encounters between the desperate housewife (Hands) and her virile gamekeeper (Coulloc'h). You won't find a more effective hosanna for the existential healing powers of humping.

Favoring Lawrence's second of three Chatterley manuscripts and opening in 1921 (when WWI's industrialized Thanatos still hovered in the air), the film quickly establishes the couple's Edenic playground as a third character. Liaisons take place within landscapes of lush greenery; the soundtrack often consists of nothing but birds chirping and the distant echo of a babbling brook. Apparently, it's nice to fool (around) with Mother Nature after all. Even when the director tiptoes into the realm of ridiculous hippie behavior---does anyone put flowers on their lover's genitals?---Lady Chatterley retains an ability to hypnotize. Tasteful yet ecstatically turned-on, Ferran's interpretation reworks legendary highbrow "smut" into a textured story of rebirth.

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By: David Fear

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