As I mentioned before, acclaimed director Jane Campion still seems to be undervalued and understated in most film circles (which is also still the case for most female filmmakers), and this is quite despairing. Campion has an unique style and storytelling gifts that should be celebrated. Her characters (especially the female ones) are so complex and beautifully flawed, that they feel very real and relatable.
And in her 1993 masterpiece, The Piano, she brings forth an iconic character in Ada, a Scottish woman (immortally played by the great Holly Hunter) who is mute, but for her own reasons. She, along her spirited young daughter Flora (wonderfully played by Anna Paquin in her film debut), reluctantly travel to a remote section of New Zealand where she is forced into an arranged marriage to a farmer (Sam Neill), for whom she feels no attraction to. But, when she meets his emotionally intense Maori-friendly acquaintance (a brooding Harvey Keitel), her repression undoes to his sheer animal magnetism. This obviously leads to serious consequences for which may cause damage to Ada’s overall livelihood.
I liked when I first saw it years ago, but now I really love it. Campion’s attention to period detail, her feminist approach to sexuality, and even her gaze of the male form, which is quite refreshing and a slap in the face to the always overdone male gaze. There’s also incredible visuals and a great study in culture clash, especially with the characters’ interaction with the Maori people that surround them. Also with a moving score by Michael Nyman, the film remains an impacting, sensuous experience, and one of the best films of the 1990s.
The new release from Criterion, is just as incredible as the film itself. Available in 4K/Blu combo, Blu only, and DVD editions, there are several great supplements to add to your appreciation of the film and its many poetic mysteries, such as commentary by Campion and producer Jan Chapman; new conversation between Campion and film critic Amy Taubin; 2018 interview with Hunter about working with Campion; a 2006 short film by Campion, and much more!
If you happen to be a fan of Campion and her sublime work, or need a starting point to it, then this wonderful release is just what you need. Read my review.
Dick Johnson is Dead (Criterion): Kirsten Johnson’s follow-up to her acclaimed 2016 documentary Cameraperson, as she helps her father prepare for his death by staging a series of comic and inventive ways to help them both come to terms with the inevitable.
Arrebato: A 1979 surreal drama as a low budget horror filmmaker gets in contact with an eccentric who wants to film his consciousness while on a drug binge.
Rebels of the Neon God: Tsai Ming-liang’s 1992 portrait of a rebellious youth who heads to downtown Taipei, where he falls in with a pretty hood. Their relationship is a despairing mixture of hero-worship and jealousy, which leads to obvious trouble.