Pascale Ferran's magnificently sensual adaptation of an earlier version of D.H. Lawrence's novel isn't remotely bawdy, but it is candidly, tenderly carnal in a way rarely seen in contemporary cinema, where sexuality crouches trapped between prissiness and prurience. This rapturously naturalistic movie about a passionate affair between an unfulfilled milady (Marina Hands) and her gamekeeper (Jean-Louis Coulloc'h) refuses to engage with the feminist theories that have sent Lawrence's posthumous reputation careening from literary god to chauvinist devil. The sex is fumbling, awkward, and real—how hot could anyone look running around in the rain, breasts bobbing, clad only in Mary Poppins boots?—and the camera's unhurried contemplation of birds and flowers giddily invokes a National Geographic special. But Ferran slyly rereads the novel as a story of mutual liberation, and she both keeps faith with and holds in check Lawrence's romantic belief in the primacy of nature in all its forms over civilization. The supreme achievement of this lovely movie—all three rhythmic, leisurely hours of it—is that what borders on faintly fascistic body worship in the novel, instead feels as perfectly natural to us as it does to the lovers. Lawrence would kvell.
Hands shows the passion of Lady C.
Lady Chatterley Opens at Egyptian, Fri., July 20. Not rated.168 minutes.