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D. H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover has caused a considerable amount of excitement ever since its publication in 1928, but the French motion picture based on the book is not likely to arouse much discussion. Despite the Beacon Hill's prominent "Adults Only" signs, there is little in the film which might corrupt youths. To be sure, a discussion of what might be called the metaphysics of sexuality forms the core of the picture, buit it is treated with such careful circumspection that the result is little more than dull.
The elements of Lawrence's story, despite a shift in time from after World War One to the present, are still pretty much intact. Lady Chatterley, the heroine of the story, still takes a lover upon the urging of her husband, Sir Clifford Chatterley, whose injury in the war prevents him from begetting the heir he desperately wants. But the lover turns out not to be of Sir Clifford's liking--he is the gamekeeper on the Chatterley estate. The affair, the audience is told with great care, teaches Lady Chatterley that the only possible union between two human souls and the only possible love is sensual, and at the end she leaves her husband to marry the gamekeeper.
Whatever it may have meant in the original novel, the film presents the story as a routine marital triangle, albeit one clothed in some impressive pastoral photography. Part of the picture's lack of dramatic impact undoubtedly stems from the routine character of the acting. Only one of the principals, Danielle Darrieux, as Lady Chatterley, brings some life into the proceedings. Her transition from a cool, self-possessed society woman to the wife of a gamekeeper is, on the whole, credible. Leo Genn, in the part of Sir Clifford, gives a singularly plodding performance and his French always sounds self-conscious and forced. As the gamekeeper, Erno Crisa has the suitable male-animal look about him, but his acting is pretty much confined to flying into plot-induced, if psychologically inexplicable, rages. And director Marc Allegret keeps things moving at a tediously even pace to an end which comes none too soon.
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