Wednesday, January 6, 2010

French Lady Chatterley

I spent the evening of January 1 watching, on TV, the full-length version (2 hours 40 minutes) of a splendid French movie produced in 2006: Lady Chatterley and the Man in the Woods. It's a cinematographic adaptation, by the French director Pascale Ferran, of the second version of D H Lawrence's famous novel, whose third version is better known as Lady Chatterley's Lover.

The role of Lady Chatterley is played exquisitely by Marina Hands, daughter of the British stage director Terry Hands and the French actress Ludmila Mikaël.

A little-known French stage actor, Jean-Louis Coulloc'h, plays the role of Parkin, the virile man in the woods. His performance is perfectly solemn and low-key, as befits this solitary personage who says little but senses profoundly everything around him.

As soon as the relationship between the lady and the lord's employee started to warm up physically, I wondered how Pascale Ferran was going to handle the explicit sexual scenes and language that had once shocked prudish English society in Lawrence's notorious novel. Well, I soon discovered that everything has been handled superbly, in a style of Garden-of-Eden innocence. And, when heavy rain pours down upon Eden, Adam and Eve are not afraid of getting wet.

When the movie first came out, in 2006, a critic said: "Every frame of the film seems alive with a sensuality that is both wild and intelligent." For a movie based upon the work of an English novelist, I would say that Pascale Ferran's film is astoundingly French. But was D H Lawrence really a typical English novelist? Of course not. He was a sensitive author of the world in the style of James Joyce and Lawrence Durrell. Nevertheless, the harsh class-conscious sentiments expressed by Lord Chatterley reflect faithfully the political setting of early 20th-century Georgian England. But the first two versions of Lawrence's novel, entitled simply Lady Chatterley, are not as tediously oriented towards society and politics as the third version, entitled Lady Chatterley's Lover. Personally, as a reader, I've always preferred this excellent French translation of the initial version, prefaced by the author's widow, Frieda Lawrence.

Talking about D H Lawrence, I wonder if many of my compatriots are aware that, in 1922, this great writer actually spent a few months out in the New South Wales seaside suburb of Thirroul, near Wollongong. This experience resulted in a plausible political novel entitled Kangaroo, published in 1923... which, in spite of its title, has nothing to do with bush marsupials.

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