Lady Chatterley ***1/2
Directed by Pascale Ferran
Written by Pascale Ferran and Roger Bohbot
Marina Hands as Lady Constance Chatterley
Jean-Louis Coullo'ch as Parkin
Hippolyte Girardot as Clifford
Hélène Alexandridis as Mrs. Bolton
Hélène Fillières as Hilda
Bernard Verley as Le père de Constance
Sava Lolov as Tommy Dukes
Jean-Baptiste Montagut as Harry Winterslo
168 Minutes(Not Rated-Sex, Nudity)
Now, I always claim to give every movie I see the benefit of the doubt, but I still have my apprehensions whenever I sit in my seat before a film begins. I never know-I could be watching a masterpiece, or I could be watching a dud-and sometimes there are clues based on the actors involved, or the directors. And then there are just my experiences with films of a similar type. Now, I guess I wasn't all that excited to see "Lady Chatterley-" which, in a nutshell, is a three hour French period romance film. Now maybe the length was a bit daunting-because if I was watching a bad film, there are 168 bad minutes involved with it. Or perhaps it was just my distaste for French films. Or maybe I was not interested in watching yet another period piece. But in the end, I proved myself once again that I should not judge something before I watched it. Everything seemed to click through every single entrancing minute of "Lady Chatterley," a very beautifully made, and very silent, French romance period piece.
"Lady Chatterley" is based on a novel by D.H. Lawrence, while was so risque for it's time that it was actually banned. The film follows our lead character-Lady Constance Chatterley, who is pretty much bored with her life. She is mostly stationed because of her husband's old war injury in his leg, and finds solace in her afternoon walks around her property. One day she catches a peak at the gamekeeper, Parkin, shirtless and washing himself, and she is suddenly entranced by him. She starts a strange friendship with him, visits him everyday, and before she knows it they are doing it in his hut. The affair deepens over time, her husband does not suspect anything until Constance begins to desire a baby.
For such a simple story, you may not think that 168 minutes is needed, but who needs a plot when you have a lead character like this one. The film is about how Lady Chatterley changes after her encounters with Parkin, and how they free her from the cell that was her life. The first forty five minutes or so are simple shots-her walking on the property, spotting Parkin, helping her husband. And then something happens. The day she sees Parkin she catches a glimpse of herself in the nude in a mirror, and she begins to wonder. For much of the film, lead actress Marina Hands is either having sex or not wearing clothing, but it is never gratuitous or unneeded. This story charts her change through all of her sexual encounters. In the beginning, both Chatterley and Parkin are wearing all their cloths, barely touch, and he is done within a matter of seconds. Over time, as their relationships deepens and deepens, they get more and more comfortable, and by the end Chatterley is a full woman-covered in flowers, literally, you will understand if you see the film. Sure there was so laughter in the audience because of the amount of stark nudity here, but it makes sense in the way that the Lady develops. This is artistic nudity, and not nudity for the sake of seeing nudity.
Every shot is full of romance-romance of love and romance for the country. Every single shot features some kind of a luscious landscape, and it is a wonder to behold. And with a three hour running length it never seems to lull at all. This is just a simple story that needs room to breath. Have patience and you will be fine. I must say I was surprised with my reaction towards the film. It's just breathing with so much life and romance, and there is an obvious care from director Pascale Ferran to the material. It is clear that a lot of love went into this project. And while I must say that if this went on for a few minutes longer, it would have overstayed its welcome just a bit. "Lady Chatterley' ends right about the time when you want to leave, and its exit is an abrupt and quick one. But its perfection. This is a lovely and welcome film that should be approached with an open mind. Forget the generalities-French, three hours, period romance-and embrace it for just those reasons.