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A film adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's novel. After a crippling injury leaves her husband impotent, Lady Chatterly is torn between her love for her husband and her physical desires. With her husband's consent, she seeks out other means of fulfilling her needs. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Though D.H. Lawrence's scandal-fueling 1928 novel, which was not legally available in its country of origin until 1960, has been adapted for the screen on many occasions since respectable stick in the mud Marc Allégret made a first attempt as long ago as 1955 with less fire than ice Danielle Darrieux, it wasn't until the equally non-British Pascale Ferran shot a highly literate version with the magnificent Marina Hands critics consensually agreed the book had been done cinematic justice. While a considerable commercial success when theatrically released in the early '80s, Just Jaeckin's much-maligned rendition has rarely been deemed worthy of comment since. Large part of the problem for high-minded reviewers remains the fact that so many involved on both sides of the camera are just so disreputable ! Rather fitting for a film based on literary material so long slandered as pornographic and since that took three decades to rehabilitate, perhaps the movie might expect a similar fate by now ?
Produced by the Cannon Group, effectively Israeli-born schlock-meisters Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, and directed by the guy who drew huge crowds yet public disdain with such up-market porn as EMMANUELLE and HISTOIRE D'O, it had some major hurdles to overcome if it wanted to become a critic's darling. While the Go-Go Twins, a nickname coined by Michael Winner, probably couldn't care less about such fate, this was clearly more of a concern for Just Jaeckin, craving respect in the wake of top-grossing titillation. Alas, it was not meant to be. Casting Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel, who like Jaeckin could not escape the curse of EMMANUELLE, in the lead role didn't help. Though dubbed in plummy British dulcet tones, she's actually quite good playing constricted Constance Chatterley, deeply in love with war-paralyzed husband Clifford (a rather unctuous Shane Briant, who had made an impact in Hammer's DEMONS OF THE MIND and CAPTAIN KRONOS, VAMPIRE HUNTER) but physically yearning for the satisfaction only hunky grounds keeper Oliver Mellors (the late lamented Nicholas Clay) can supply.
Movie's actually a lot closer to the book, a "hot property" if ever there was, than those who have never read it assume. An intimately detailed account of romance as product of overwhelming sexual attraction, it didn't exactly need "juicing up" to qualify as source for an overtly erotic film. Initially intended to be made by the outrageous Ken Russell (who wound up doing a disappointingly bland TV version with Joely Richardson and Sean Bean a decade later) with Sarah Miles and Oliver Reed slated to portray the single-minded protagonists, the eventual outcome was quickly written up as a sell-out to crass commercialism by the kind of ivory tower print journalists who are now receiving their just desserts courtesy of the Internet. They did not pay attention to the faithful screenplay provided by Jaeckin, regular Hammer scribe Christopher Wicking and American author Marc Behm, who wrote "The Eye of the Beholder", filmed by Claude Miller (as MORTELLE RANDONNEE) and Stephan Elliott under the original title. They casually overlooked Shirley Russell's sumptuous costumes, dating back to when it was still her husband's project no doubt, and the splendid sets by a then fledgling designer named Anton Furst, who had the last laugh garnering well-deserved kudos for his outstanding work on Neil Jordan's COMPANY OF WOLVES and Tim Burton's BATMAN. Pressed for praise, they were willing to concede that the efforts of cinematographer Robert Fraisse (Oscar-nominated for Jean-Jacques Annaud's THE LOVER) and composer Stanley Myers worthy of minor consideration, though both were thought of as "slumming" it.
Okay, this is where I discard all pretense of professionalism and possibly, where part of my respected readership's concerned, take leave of my senses. Having made a convincing case for the defense, I feel, I must admit that I profoundly love this movie for reasons that are entirely personal. Picture if you will, an anxious 14-year old boy struggling with his sexual identity I have since come out to myself and the world, thank you being taken by his beloved and now sadly departed mother to see this film at the sort of humongous picture palace pre-dating the multiplex culture we know today. The extremely physical romance unspooling before my gazing eyes filled me with joy and longing as few films have managed since. Stuck in a loveless marriage, for which I don't blame my late father as they proved a poor match from the start by all accounts, my mom relished the vicarious thrill the flicks provided her with. Needless to say, we both adored this one, so much in fact, and I can't believe I'm making this public but you will soon find out I have no shame, that we would call each other "Connie" and "Ollie" ever since until her untimely passing in February 2003.
I developed a major crush on Nicholas Clay. He had caused a stirring in my loins playing Lancelot in John Boorman's magnificently overblown Excalibur but now the lid was off entirely. As a starry-eyed gay teen, I vowed to keep myself chaste until we could be together. Oh, my resolve weakened or was weakened for me within a couple of weeks or so and I grew into the slut beloved by many to this very day ! So, this movie's all about coming to terms with my growing attraction to members (ha !) of the same sex. It's also about my mother, invariably the most important woman in most gay men's lives. Six and a half years since her death and still not a day goes by that she's not in my thoughts. I love and miss her very much and watching this film praise the Lord for DVD makes me feel that little bit closer to her whenever I need to, just like this particularly odd review is my perhaps wrong-headed attempt at a tribute. Go softly into the night, my Queen, and God bless
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