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Entries in Jane Campion (22)

Thursday
Apr302015

Visual Index ~ Bright Star's 'Best Shots'

We're almost to the mid season finale of Hit Me With Your Best Shot. This week's episode looks at Jane Campion's sorely underseen Bright Star (2009). The romantic drama about the poet John Keats and his unconsummated love with the headstrong Fanny Brawne was lost in the 2009 shuffle, but is a true beauty and a worthy entry in Jane Campion's tremendous filmography. It introduced the film world to the then 34 year old DP Greig Frasier, who had previously made shorts and obscure features, before Campion's film provided his breakthrough. He went on to plum assignments like Foxcatcher, Zero Dark Thirty and Snow White and the Huntsman. Frasier has yet to be Oscar-nominated but he's already one of the best DPs in the business.

Even more impressive, given that Bright Star is such a successfully intimate portrait of new love, is that the movie introduced its star Ben Whishaw to its film composer Mark Bradshaw; they were married just three years later. 

Bright Star's Best Shots
11 images chosen by 13 participants
(in the order the articles came in this time)
Click on the pictures for their corresponding articles 

One of the prettiest things I've ever seen.
-Zitzelfilm

Bright Star is all about the subtle touches of skin..."
-A Fistful of Films 

...so many beautiful images that also happen to be encapsulations of the universal aspects of falling in love"
-Coco Hits NY

What is it that she spies beyond the boundaries of her domesticity, fenced off by windows and hidden behind opaque curtains?"
-Lam Chop Chop 


In a film with mostly subdued feelings, this particular scene is electric with emotions..."
-Sorta That Guy

The years have been kind to the film..."
-Film Actually

 

This is the first time i’ve done a HMWYBS where I was absolutely disinterested with a film..."
- I Want to Believe

 

Fanny, trapped and bleached of color, but already pushing against her confines with a creative act."
-Anne Marie, The Film Experience 

a film about four things: romance, Romanticism, being outside, and costuming..."
-Antagony & Ecstasy 

What is young love if not...
-Evan Stewart

I truly and deeply hope that more people will seek this film out."
-Movie Nut

 Unrequited love...
-Hey Norge

Campion has rightfully earned a reputation as a fiercely feminist filmmaker..."
-The Entertainment Junkie 

 

NEXT WEDNESDAY NIGHT IS THE MID-SEASON FINALE. YOU HAVE A CHOICE OF ONE OF THREE MOVIES FOR THE ORSON WELLES CENTENNIAL:  CITIZEN KANE, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS or THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI. See something you've always meant to see and pick a shot. You won't regret it. 

 

Thursday
Apr302015

Women's Pictures - Jane Campion's Bright Star

Have you participated in Hit Me With Your Best Shot? Visual index coming tonight! 

As an end to this month-long series on Jane Campion, Bright Star presents a perfect kind of artistic summation for the writer/director. This John Keats romance is part of a tradition of filmmakers and playwrights making art about art. Though presumably about the life of an artist, the  finished play or film acts as its creator’s thesis statement about sublime inspiration (Minnelli’s Lust for Life), beauty and pain (Julie Taymor’s Frida), the thin line between madness and creation (Scorsese's The Aviator), or the creative process (Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George). Inevitably, these films and plays are as much about their creators as they are about their subjects.

Jane Campion had already made one such thesis statement earlier with An Angel at my Table, a biopic designed to explore the relationship between otherness and originality. By telling the story of Romantic poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) from the perspective of his fiance Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) in Bright Star, Campion explores not the creation of art, but rather art’s creative power. The audience sees Keats through Fanny’s eyes - Campion does love personal narratives - and so both Fanny and the film blossom into color. But first, we must be introduced to our young protagonist.

Campion's colorful thoughts on art and love after the jump...

Best Shot

"White. A blank canvas, or page."

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Apr232015

Women's Pictures - Jane Campion's In the Cut

Anne Marie's Women's Pictures continues with her month-long look at the films of Jane Campion.

Before you look at me askance for choosing the 2003 film In the Cut for this week’s Jane Campion movie, let me share a smattering of the comments people have made at TFE and on Facebook about it:

“if you're going to cover 5 of her 7 films anyway, why not tackle the absolute worst of the lot?”

“fyi don't listen to anyone who says IN THE CUT is a bad movie. it's fantastic & worth finding.”

“I don't like In the Cut but as far as failures go, it's definitely one of the more interesting/intriguing ones.”

“IN THE CUT is one of my very very very very favorites of ever in everdom.”

With such wildly varied responses, my interest was piqued. And now, having watched In the Cut twice, I must say: everyone is right. It’s a terrible thriller. It’s also a fascinating meditation on the complicated, kinky relationship between sex and violence, told from a woman’s perspective. It is the simultaneously the most and least Campion-like film we’ve watched this month. In The Cut is a messy, ugly, beautiful contradiction.

It also has naked Mark Ruffalo. You're welcome.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Apr162015

Women's Pictures - Jane Campion's The Piano

The Piano contains many stories. It is a love story between two outsiders: a mute woman, and an uneducated man. It is an allegory about oppression: a white landowner in New Zealand treats his wife and the Maori people like children or property. It is a study of conflicted characters: a repressed, oppressive landowner; his passionate, mute wife; the lower class man who falls in love with her; and her wild, intelligent daughter. It is a warning about the hazards of refusing to listen: a failed marriage, a soured initial seduction, and the climax of the film are all spurred by lacking communication.  The Piano also has its roots in the fairy tale “Bluebeard;” a sinister story about a newlywed who discovers that her husband murders his wives. But as we’ve seen, Jane Campion doesn’t do easy fairy tale morality.

Campion’s story opens with the only words we will hear its main character speak:

The voice you hear is not my speaking voice - but my mind's voice. I have not spoken since I was six years old. No one knows why - not even me...

Ada (Holly Hunter) is a mute Scottish woman shipped to Victorian New Zealand to marry a stranger, Alisdair (Sam Neill). Ada carries with her the two possessions that make up her voice: her headstrong daughter (Anna Paquin), and her piano. Alisdair leaves the piano, to Ada’s dismay, but a former whaler named George (Harvey Keitel) senses the piano’s importance, and shelters it in his house. He uses it to start an affair with Ada. Considering that this is a story set in the Victorian era, it is a welcome surprise that Campion refuses to make Ada a victim of anything (except maybe circumstance). But that initial image, the piano on the beach, lingers. The incongruous image of a piano on a beach sets the theme for the film - melancholy, and tinged with magical realism.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Apr092015

Women's Pictures - Jane Campion's An Angel at my Table

With her 1990 film An Angel at my Table, Jane Campion solidified a pattern for herself. Her films would be about extraordinary women in stifling circumstances. Whether it is mental institutions, marital institutions, family, or society, Campion’s heroines have to overcome great difficulties in order to live truly as themselves. An Angel at my Table, based on the autobiographies of New Zealand author Janet Frame, stands out as the only film of Campion’s early body of work that could be comfortably called a biopic. But to dismiss An Angel at my Table as just another biopic would be to ignore the unusual film Campion has made about an unusual woman.

Janet Frame’s life was as strange as any of the twenty works she wrote. She spent her childhood poor but happy in rural New Zealand, grew into an awkward woman whose anxiety was mistaken for mental illness, spent eight years in a mental institution, was freed when her writing was published, and went on to become a New Zealand icon. Campion cast three actresses to play Frame as she matured: Karen Fergusson, Alexia Keogh, and finally the incredible Kerry Fox. The three actresses are unified by a shock of red, unruly hair, and an awkward physicality that show someone more comfortable in her imagination than in the world.

An Angel at my Table is shot in a straightforward style far removed from the canted camera angles and wide angle lenses of Sweetie. The practical reason for this was the film's humble beginnings as a TV miniseries. However, beyond practicality, this less showy camera blocking lends itself to grounding Janet Frame’s story in reality. Frame’s impoverished but happy upbringing, her nightmarish eight year detention in a mental institution, and her subsequent successful writing career are shown in mostly medium or long shots, with Janet at the visually at the center. Typically subjects are set off-center in a shot, because symmetrical framing looks odd to the audience’s eye. Placing Janet at the center of the frame visually sets Janet apart - reacting to, but separate from, the world around her.

Janet Frame's colorful inner life after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Apr022015

Women's Pictures - Jane Campion's Sweetie

Welcome to Jane Campion month! When I asked you all to vote for our next Female Filmmaker, I was surprised when the New Zealand native won nearly half of the vote. In retrospect, I should have seen it coming. Jane Campion is one of the most honored ladies on our list! She’s been nominated for two Academy Awards (one of which she won) and two Golden Globes for The Piano in 1994, garnered three Emmy nominations for Top of the Lake two years ago, and she won the Palm d’Or in 1986, before our story with her even starts! We pick up with her three years after her prestigious win, with a sad, strange, sometimes silly story of one weird woman’s even weirder family.

If taken at face value, Sweetie is a cautionary about how a daughter's untreated mental illness can cause an already unstable family to disintegrate. But nothing in Campion's surreal story is meant to be taken at face value. With the help of (lady!) cinematographer Sally Bongers, Campion shows a gift for making the mundane malevolent. When cast under shadows and seen through a wide angle lens, plastic furniture, dappled rugs, and the brightly-colored trappings of middle class suburbia suddenly suggest something rotten in the state of New Zealand. Campion refuses to shy away from the ugliness of her characters, instead covering them with candy colors that make them all the more grotesque.

Jane Campion's twisted family story after the jump

Click to read more ...