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  Lady Chatterley Gamekeeper Turned Poacher
Year: 2006
Director: Pascale Ferran
Stars: Marina Hands, Jean-Louis Coullo'ch, Hippolyte Girardot, Hélène Alexandridis, Hélène Fillières, Bernard Verley, Sava Lolov, Jean-Baptiste Montagut, Fanny Deleuze, Michel Vincent, Colette Philippe, Christelle Hes, Jade Bouchard, Joël Vandael
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Lady Constance Chatterley (Marina Hands) lives on a sprawling English country estate with her husband, and she is troubled by the fact that he is practically the only person she talks to these days. He was injured in the recently ended Great War, and as a result has been paralysed from the waist down so that Constance has to tend to him, washing him and making sure he is not exhausted by the simplest of tasks. Listening to Clifford (Hippolyte Girardot) trade war stories with his army buddies one night makes her realise how down she is, and she is quickly headed for depression - whatever could bring her out of it?

D.H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover was controversial for decades after it was published, and although you can now buy it in Britain at any good bookshop should you so desire, this was not always the case. As for film versions, it had been subjected to the predictable softcore porno renderings as well as a prestigious Ken Russell television miniseries in the nineties, but one of the best thought of adaptations was not British at all, but French. It starred an Anglo-French actress, but she, as well as the rest of the cast, did not speak in English, so if you found that jarring then you weren't going to get on with this Continental variation in a U.K. setting.

In co-writer and director Pascale Ferran's view, this was less a story about a noblewoman lusting after a bit of rough and more about two lonely people finding an arrangement that blossoms not only into a sexual relationship, but a loving one as well. We can see that Constance's life is stranding her on a island surrounded by nobody she can confide in, and when she is forced to see the doctor as her mental instability grows too much to bear, his suggestion is that they hire a nurse to look after Clifford instead of having her do it all. This does at least free her up to wander the grounds, and appreciate the loveliness of the nature she sees around her on the estate.

And also appreciate the male form, as she accidentally stumbles onto the gamekeeper, Parkin (Jean-Louis Coullo'ch), stripped to the waist and washing himself. Constance has barely seen her husband without his clothes, so is shocked and although she would not admit it, excited at such a sight, and here's where a problem arises. For the approach Ferran adopts, one would expect the gamekeeper to be something of a rustic hunk of manliness, and not the uncharismatic lump that Coullo'ch presents. It really is a curious bit of casting - not that Parkin should have been a perfectly sculpted male model type, but in this incarnation the character is truly unremarkable, making Constance seem less lonely than utterly desperate.

All the more strange that with its lingering shots of leafy glades, babbling brooks and the odd item of wildlife this Lady Chatterley comes across as a Mills and Boon rather than a classic of British literature. Even when it turns supposedly raunchy, there's something quaint about it, with tasteful nudity and such twee romping as running around in the rain while in a state of undress. The connection with nature is nicely depicted, as if Constance was getting back to a pastoral sense of her existence, and this has a picturebook quality that does justice to the swooning romance, if not the animal urges, but Parkin really does appear to be someone they pulled in off the street. His final admission that he was as starved for company as his lover was, only it took her for him to cotton on to that, is quite sweet, but this is a bit too dewy-eyed for its own good, however soulful Hands makes her role. Music by Béatrice Thiriet.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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