Lady Chatterly’s Lover (1981)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Lady Chatterly’s Lover</strong> (1981)

(In French, On TV, December 2018) When D. H. Lawrence sat down to write Lady Chatterly’s Lover, I’m not sure that he envisioned it being turned into an exploitative soft-core erotic thriller. Or maybe he did—the novel is celebrated for having struck down all sorts of obscenity laws during the 1950s–1960s and the author clearly intended it to push back the limits of free speech. Still, that doesn’t excuse boring movie adaptations. On a commercial basis, this 1981 version of Lady Chatterly’s Lover exists on solid ground: It was a reunion between director Just Jaeckin and star Sylvia Kristel for the first time since the soft-core-classic Emmanuelle. Alas, the white-gauze cinematography, languorous close-ups of Kristel’s body and lengthy lovemaking sequences mean that the film is aimed at voyeurs more than audiences interested in narrative substance. The result is incredibly dull, although I suppose that it remains notable for featuring a generous amount of female-gaze eroticism and not solely male titillation. (The introduction of the titular lover, for instance, is through a very long sequence in which the heroine stares at him taking a shower outdoors.) I can imagine circumstances where Lady Chatterly’s Lover would be a fun movie to watch as a couple, but it’s a very different kind of movie-watching experience than this movie critic taking notes and measuring it against the overall, um, thrust of 1980s cinema.

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