By Gilbey, Ryan
New Statesman (1996) , Vol. 136, No. 4859
Lady Chatterley (18)
dir: Pascale Ferran
Knocked Up (15)
dir: Judd Apatow
If you heard there was a candid new French film of Lady Chatterley's Lover, you would suspect the worst, right? But Pascale Ferran's Lady Chatterley is unlikely to give much satisfaction to either the dirty mac brigade, if such a thing still exists in the internet age, or those dissenters who have wielded the whip in the long-running D H Lawrence backlash. In her search for the novel's essence, or possibly just to avoid adapting all that post-coital chit-chat about class and labour, Ferran has gone back to Lawrence's more understated second draft, John Thomas and Lady Jane (Lady Chatterley's Lover being the third draft), and filmed that instead. The result has all the blase joy and looseness of the nouvelle vague.
Ferran treats cinema like she invented it, throwing together home-movie footage, hand-held camerawork and out-of-the-blue voice-overs. For all that, her Lady Chatterley is a tranquil work that handles its characters' passions with a quizzical coolness. The plot you know by now: Constance (Marina Hands) is traipsing around the country estate of her paralysed husband, Clifford (Hippolyte Girardot), when she happens upon something sweaty in the woodshed--namely the gamekeeper, Parkin (Jean-Louis Coulloc'h). The pair begin an awkward affair, which Ferran documents initially with a watchful camera that keeps noticing hands: there's a moment of silent elation when Constance slips her hand into Parkin's weather-beaten gardening glove, and another when the lovers' hands brush against each other as they heave Clifford's wheelchair out of a rut.
Marina Hands is captivating as Constance, particularly in the scenes that show this forlorn, forgotten woman sparking to life again. You haven't seen bliss until you've witnessed her expression when the maid tells her that the daffodils are out early this year. "Daffodils, already?" she chirps, knowing this will necessitate another trip to Parkin's shed, but also seeming genuinely enraptured at the thought of tripping through a copse with armfuls of flowers. Hands has already won a Cesar award for her performance; if Lady Chatterley doesn't herald her transformation into an art-house icon of Anna Karina-esque proportions, I'll eat my weather-beaten gardening gloves. …