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Lady Chatterley


Stars: Marina Hands, Jean-Louis Coullo'ch, Hippolyte Girardot, Helene Alexandridis, Helene Fillieres, Bernard Verley, Sava Lolov, Jean-Baptiste Montagut, Michel Vincent, Christelle Hes, Joel Vandael, Jacques de Bock, Ninon Bretcher, Anne Benoit, Jean-Baptiste de Laubier

Director: Pascale Ferran

Once upon a time, long long ago D H Lawrence’s controversial saga of illicit love was infamous for its sexual frankness. But that was then – nowadays, Channel 4, the BBC (remember Ken Russell putting Joely Richardson and Sean Bean through their erotic paces?) and semi-porn mainstream movies like Michael Winterbottom’s salacious (and terrible!) 9 Songs, Lady Chatterley’s sexual shenanigans seem positively tame by comparison.

While Lady Chatterley has already enjoyed several cinema incarnations, this elegant adaptation is the first to be directed by a woman, Pascale Ferran, who also co-wrote the screenplay based on an earlier version of Lawrence’s novel Lady Jane and John Thomas. She doesn’t pull any sexual punches – her storytelling is direct, the protagonists are frequently full frontal – but not salacious. The sexual situations arise naturally out of the narrative rather than being inserted for no other reason than to titillate for box-office appeal.

The key performances – Hands, poignant and always credible as the eponymous aristocrat engaged in an ardent affair with her impotent uppercrust Englishman husband’s gamekeeper and Coullo'ch as her earthy lover - are excellent, and strong support comes from Hippolyte Girardot as the cuckolded husband. Hands won of the film’s five Cesars (the French equivalent of the Oscars). It also won for Best French Film and Best Director, while Julien Hirsch’s lambent cinematography deservedly scooped another.

Alan Frank

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Artificial Eye. Colour.
168 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 28 Aug 2007