Thursday, July 5, 2007

Lady Chatterley: Cinema Village and Lincoln Plaza, Now Playing

If you haven't seen Lady Chatterley yet, you should get a move on: it lost two of its five US theaters in its second week. And, to my surprise (because I was so-so on director Pascale Ferran's first two features), it's amazing. In a way, it's got the typical structure of a character-based movie, in which a character begins at state of mind A and winds up at state of mind B after experiencing a series of events. And it's also got the typical M.O. that accompanies that structure, where the audience is expected to project its direct experience of those events onto the character, as an aid to understanding how the character might plausibly change. What's not typical is that the events are sex scenes, and that the sex scenes are paced and graded accordingly, as if they were the battle scenes in a war movie or the heist scenes in a caper movie. The film's 168 minutes go by quickly, thanks to what I think of as the Rio Bravo principle of construction: the running time is covered by only a few scenes, each of which is concise in conception but contains a number of small elaborations that protract the scene without losing narrative focus.

Lady Chatterley is an idealized vision of sex so good that it transforms life, and it could easily have insulted our intelligence. But Ferran's depiction of sex is remarkably devoid of prurience, and it's exciting to see characters who are at the same time shy about carnal matters and yet direct in their expression of desire. And Marina Hands gives one of those astonishing performances that are so ingenuous that one can't imagine the actor apart from the character.


Anonymous said...

My life was made infinitely better by that vintage footage of your band playing. And this blog is great; finally I don't have to bait you on the super-secret film geek chat group to learn stuff.

Dan Sallitt said...

I accept compliments about my old band much more enthusiastically than I do about my movies or criticism! Mostly because so much of our sound came from Larry Jacobson, whose musicianship I admire unreservedly.