Masterpiece Theatre avec penis

Lady Chatterley

on June 22, 2007 by John P. McCarthy
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Is it gauche to ask why this French TV production, being released theatrically in a condensed form, got made in the first place? Did French television need programming? Was using D.H. Lawrence's second version of Lady Chatterley's Lover —entitled John Thomas and Lady Jane —reason enough? Calling it Lady Chatterley could imply an attempt to redress Lawrence's perceived misogyny, yet a feminist slant doesn't jump out. Two shots of an erect penis and a fair bit of nudity notwithstanding, no serious decency boundaries are pushed, so revisiting the scandal that attended the publication of Lady Chatterley's Lover doesn't figure as a motivation.

The best rejoinder to this churlish and moot line of questioning: The movie is quite exquisite and has five Cesars (French Oscars) to prove it.

Marina Hands brings a long-legged gamine's beauty to Constance Chatterley, wife of wheelchair-bound vet and mine-owner Sir Clifford (Hippolyte Girardot). It's 1921 near Sheffield, and the aftereffects of World War I, including the decimation of the male population, are just beginning to be felt. When Constance is diagnosed with reduced vitality, a nurse is hired to look after Sir Clifford, and the young Lady has time for long, rejuvenating walks.

One day she catches a glimpse of the estate's taciturn gamekeeper Oliver Parkin (Jean-Louis Coulloc'h) naked from the waist up. She begins visiting a hut on the property, and it becomes their sanctuary. At first they're content to simply be near one another. Eventually they make love and toward movie's end are decorating one another's bodies with wildflowers.

Coulloc'h is by no means handsome, but his average, working-class looks are integral to the story, and he does grow on one. Besides, her beauty and the production's serene realism are enough to keep the viewer's attention.
But to what end? Watching an emasculated member of the ruling class get cuckolded by a proletariat whets one's appetite for seeing the master-slave dialectic played out with more vigor on a less private and pastoral stage. Why not in Russian and at even greater length?
Distributor: Kino
Cast: Marina Hands, Jean-Louis Coulloc'h, Hippolyte Girardot, Helene Alexandridis and Helene Fillieres
Director: Pascale Ferran
Screenwriters: Pascale Ferran & Roger Bohbot
Producer: Gilles Sandoz
Genre: Romance; French-language, subtitled
Rating: Not Rated
Running time: 168 min.
Release date: June 22, 2007 NY, July exp
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