Kino International
Marina Hands and Jean-Louis Coullo'ch in "Lady Chatterley."
LADY CHATTERLEY — ** — Marina Hinds, Jean-Louis Coullo'ch, Hippolyte Girardot; in French, with English subtitles; not rated, probable R (nudity, sex, brief drugs, vulgarity, slurs)

"Lady Chatterley" is about more than just sex, which makes this film a cut above the numerous "soft-core" sex films that have been inspired by D.H. Lawrence's novel.

But this French version of the tale still has problems. For one thing, the luxuriously paced period drama is nearly three hours long and feels every bit of it. (The film's final quarter feels rushed — which actually may be for the best, given how slow the rest of it is.)

Also, the movie's supposed female-empowerment message seems a bit ludicrous, given that the title character is "empowered" by having an extramarital affair and by being duplicitous.

That character is Constance Chatterley, played by Marina Hinds. She's the privileged young wife of Clifford Chatterley (Hippolyte Girardot), a mining magnate. Clifford is a paraplegic, and Constance is bored and unfulfilled.

So she begins spending more time on the couple's spacious estate, which is how she meets Parkin (Jean-Louis Coullo'ch), the gruff gamekeeper. The two becomes friends, though eventually their tentative friendship turns into a passionate affair. An even-more-surprising revelation is Parkin's sensitive side.

To be fair, co-screenwriter/director Pascale Ferran does try to examine these characters and the social mores of the time period (the film takes place just after World War I).

Hinds ("The Barbarian Invasions") is very good as Constance, even if her character's actions are a little reprehensible. Perhaps that's why Ferran and actor Girardot go to such lengths to demonize the wealthy Clifford.

"Lady Chatterley" is not rated but would probably receive an R for full female and male nudity, simulated sex and other sexual contact, brief drug references (painkillers and opiates), some suggestive talk and slurs based on nationality. Running time: 162 minutes.