Friday, August 31, 2007

Lady Chatterley (2006, Pascale Ferran)

What I enjoyed most about Lady Chatterley was its focus on the physicality of sex, something that is often sketched over by most "erotic" films, with their sex positions which are dictated more by their effect on the audience than their relation to the characters involved. In addition, the lack of physicality in most American films seems to be a way of turning attention to the emotional and psychological states of the characters in those films, perhaps due to the guilt and shame that has been handed down from our forefathers. But enough of this tangent- Lady Chatterley is pretty potent stuff, beginning with the strange tension between Britishness of the original story and the Frenchness of the production. In addition, I appreciated the sensuality that went hand in hand with the Lady's sexual awakening- as in other female-directed sex-themed films like The Piano and Friday Night, Lady Chatterley makes one acutely aware of the sensory possibilities of the film's setting, be they a field covered in daffodils, or the layer of sweat that covers the heroine after a day planting in the garden. Most Chatterley adaptations before this concentrated mostly on the erotic aspects of the story, but much of the added running time of this one is devoted to painting the mundane, repetitive life of the Lady, who as a result of her position has almost nothing to do with her days, which makes her ripe for an awakening, both sexually and to the possibilities of life in general. There are a few things that don't quite work, in particular the simplistic dichotomy between Parkin, the personification of the physical, and Lady Chatterley's husband, all upper-class haughtiness in his wheelchair (although the scene of the motorized chair struggling up the hill is a vivid portrait of impotence). However, it's a major work, and certainly one of the best sex-themed films to come along in years, and good on Ferran for not casting the lead roles with toned, contemporary-looking hotties- Marina Hands has a tantalizing bit of tummy, and Jean-Louis Cullo'ch looks like a burly outdoorsman, and since that's who he's playing it works. Also, this is the rare erotic film that doesn't front-load its nudity, which was nice. Rating: 8 out of 10.

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