Friday, 18 September 2015

Wot I'm watching: Lady Chatterley revisited

Richard Madden and Holliday Grainger as the new Mellors and Constance


It's taken me ten days to catch up on BBCtv's new production of the naughtiest book of all time (makes Fifty Shades look very tame). Some friends complained that it was too slow and not naughty enough. They could not be more wrong. The pace was well-judged and if the novel's "John Thomas and Lady Jane" scenes were somewhat diluted, there was enough of that kind of "action" to explain why Lady C. threw caution and decorum out the window after she was captivated by the gamekeeper's rough manliness. 

Holliday Grainger and Richard Madden gave strong performances and both looked and felt in tune with the finely evoked post-World War One setting. James Norton brought pathos as well as rage to the role of Sir Clifford and was well-served by Jed Mercurio's screenplay which did not banish him to the sidelines once his wife started popping down to the woodshed. The script's one big flaw was to give the story a Mills & Boon ending which is not ruled out but not promised in the novel (I just checked my much-thumbed 1960 Penguin!).

The "intellectual" element of Lawrence's book was barely hinted at, which was fine by me since it always seemed a very tiresome attachment to the novel's lyrical if sometimes mechanical love-scenes. Mellors is altogether more credible as the fount of passion and tenderness (both destroyed in Clifford) than as the architect of a New Society.

The best-ever screen version of a D.H. Lawrence was Ken Russell's Women In Love (1969), which did manage to work in the intellectual element as well as the social and sexual. Christopher Miles's The Virgin and the Gypsy (1970) was nearly as good. And so is this: beautifully photographed, with a subtle script and excellent acting; a touching tale of a love affair that crosses the class divide. I hope this weekend's reworking of The Go-Between will be as good - and as subtle.

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