Still, director Pascale Ferran has found her way to the core of Lawrence's novel (she actually works from an earlier version of the book), and the result is a very watchable, if a bit plodding, examination of one woman's longings.
Constance Chatterley (Marina Hands) is a rich aristocrat married to Clifford (Hippollyte Girardot), a paraplegic World War I veteran who manages the family's lucrative mining business. Somewhat trapped in a gilded cage, Constance is a dutiful and loving, but bored, wife who can find few diversions other than plinking away on the piano or picking flowers.
All that changes when she feels a sudden and powerful attraction to the estate's gamekeeper, the burly Oliver Parkin (Jean-Louis Coullo'ch), a soft-spoken outdoorsman who would simply like to be left alone in his cottage. But Constance keeps finding excuses to visit him at one of the huts he maintains on the estate, and one thing soon leads to another.
Much has been made of the six sex scenes that are spaced evenly throughout the second two hours of this nearly three-hour film. Things get off to a rough start, with the two lovers coupling fully clothed for about ten seconds. Not a promising way to begin an affair. But each subsequent encounter is more erotic and mutually pleasurable than the one before. Before the film is over, the two will be chasing each other naked through the fields during a rainstorm, pausing to make mad love in a mud puddle. It's all quite earthy and gives some hint as to why Lawrence's novel was so scandalous in its time. (A female friend of mine with a predilection for big, lunky guys with big hands says she found the sex scenes almost unbearably erotic.)
Despite all that fun, it's the impositions of the outside world that ultimately makes the film interesting. Chatterley's estate needs an heir, and if he can't provide one given his condition, will he allow his wife to get pregnant by another man? And is she pregnant already? And will she want to stay with Chatterley in the long run, now that she's found a real man who, it should be noted, is painfully aware of the class distinctions that stand in their way?
Marina Hands makes an excellent Constance, flighty at times, smart as a whip at others. Looking at her bourgeois husband and at the black-faced, dead-eyed coal miners who work for him, she knows she's found a true man, and she won't want to let him go. For his part, the square-headed Coullo'ch is an unlikely leading man, all brawn and unable for the most part to articulate how he really feels. It becomes extremely suspenseful to wonder if the two lovers will ever leave their flower-strewn Eden.
Want to hear a dirty joke?
Run time: 168 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 1st November 2006
Box Office USA: $0.4M
Distributed by: Kino International Corp.
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Fresh: 64 Rotten: 21
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: Pascale Ferran
Producer: Gilles Sandoz
Screenwriter: Pascale Ferran, Roger Bohbot
Starring: Marina Hands as Constance, Jean-Louis Coulloc'h as Parkin, Hippolyte Girardot as Clifford, Hélène Alexandridis as Mrs. Bolton, Hélène Fillières as Hilda, Bernard Verley as Constance Vater, Sava Lolov as Tommy Dukes, Jean-Baptiste Montagut as Harry Winterslo
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