PostED ON OCTOBER 14
Michel Ciment is the editor of the review Positif and Le Masque et la Plume, and author of the fine book, Jane Campion par Jane Campion (Cahiers du Cinéma). He offers us his enlightened assessment of the work of the New Zealand filmmaker.
Peel – An Exercise in Discipline (1982)
I have been following her work since Peel, her short film that won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1982. Already, in her short films, she shows an exceptional gift, a highly singular and original style. Along with Polanski and Resnais, Jane Campion is the only director whose short films are as successful as her feature films.
Mothers, cousins, marriage, conflicting relationships within the family, are constant themes for Jane Campion. It is a film with a peculiar subject matter, featuring Sweetie, a retarded girl rejected by her family, and her inhibited sister, who is troubled by her. Campion shows an unparalleled sense of framing and imagery, with great expressiveness in every shot. The first films are revealing. As soon as a first film tends to be conformist, it does not bode well for the future, but with Sweetie, Jane Campion proved that she is a brilliant director.
Portrait de femme, 1996
An Angel at My Table (1990) is a film in three parts, a kind of long biographical account of a great New Zealand writer, Janet Frame, who recounts her childhood, her journey to the West, her first love. A magnificent story that was recognized with an award in Venice.
The Piano (1993)
The Palme d'or winner, in a tie with Chen Kaige's Farewell My Concubine. It is interesting to think that women represent half of humanity, that the Chinese represent a tenth of humanity, and that neither had ever been awarded a Palme d'Or at Cannes. We had to wait until 1993 for these two films!
The Portrait of a Lady (1996)
The story of a woman (Nicole Kidman) who must choose between suitors and marries the wrong man. It is about the lost illusions of a young American woman who meets her destiny in Europe. An adaptation of Henry James, rather badly received in Venice, although I think it is a masterpiece.
Holy Smoke (1999)
A film I like very much. Perhaps the most eccentric, and probably the least liked because of that. It is a rather crazy film that also fits Jane Campion's daredevil and playful filmmaking personality.
In the Cut (2003)
A beautiful story of passion. A woman is threatened by a murderer, and wonders if the man she falls in love with is not the killer. It is a masterful film that has also been rehabilitated but was not well received when it was released.
Bright Star (2009)
For me, one of her two or three finest films. The story of Keats, the great romantic poet, and his love for a young woman before he dies at 25 of tuberculosis. It's a very romantic work because I think Jane Campion is like all those great 19th century English or American writers, poets like Emily Dickinson or Emily Brontë. A woman with a taste for passion and lyricism.
The Power of the Dog (2021)
Her latest film is a western that won the Silver Lion in Venice for Best Director and was, in my opinion, the masterpiece of the festival. It deals with the relationship between two brothers when one of them marries a woman who becomes the object of his older brother's enmity.
Interview by Charlotte Pavard