September 27 – October 11
A non-conformist like many of her characters, Jane Campion (1954-) makes intense, lyrical and, at times, surreal films putting strong female characters front and centre.
New Zealand-born Campion studied painting and anthropology, the influence of which can be seen in the themes, emphasis and visual style of her filmmaking, before training at the Australian Film Television and Radio School. Campion is widely considered the most influential female filmmaker to emerge from Australasia and remains the only woman to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Most recently she has worked in TV creating the extraordinary Top of the Lake series. Campion’s films tell character-driven stories focusing on damaged women on the fringes of patriarchal society who refuse to conform. Through Campion’s lens the world is at once familiar and strange, a concrete reality and a visionary, hugely experiential environment. Striking visual compositions, idiosyncratic framing and use of colour create the off-kilter perspective and unsettling tone that have become hallmarks of Campion’s style. Leaving her films open to interpretation, she doesn’t tell the audience what to think or feel and often the most important things in her work are those left unsaid.
This season showcases Campion’s key female-centred features including her debut, Sweetie, the rarely seen TV movie written by Helen Garner, 2 Friends, the widely acclaimed Palme d’Or-winning The Piano, and her most recent feature Bright Star, as well as a number of her striking short films.
Jane Campion (1989) 97 mins M
Taking inspiration from the suburban weirdness of Lynch’s Blue Velvet and the themes and aesthetics of photographer Diane Arbus, Campion’s strangely beautiful debut feature film about the dysfunctional relationships of a Sydney family is told with disturbingly deadpan whimsy. Creating a dreamlike, off-centre mood, Campion’s iconoclastic visual style is already evident as dramatic compositions and unsettlingly angled shots make the ordinary seem strange.
An Exercise in Discipline: Peel Jane Campion (1982) 9 mins. Unclassified 15 + (unless accompanied by an adult). Campion’s 1986 Palme d’Or-winner is a study of discipline involving a family road trip and an orange peel made while she was a student at AFTRS.
Courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia.
9:00pm IN THE CUT
Jane Campion (2003) 119 mins R
A teacher (Meg Ryan) engages in a dangerous flirtation with a homicide detective (Mark Ruffalo) in this noir-inflected exploration of sexual curiosity and desire based on Susanna Moore’s controversial novel. Cinematographer Dion Beebe fuses bright and muted colours with the seedy streets of downtown Manhattan in ways that are at once welcoming and threatening and allude to the contradictions of female urban experience. The luminous sensory palette, refracted through an intense female gaze, is characteristic of Campion’s attention to materiality, marking this as a key work in her career. With Jennifer Jason Leigh.
7:00pm THE PIANO
Jane Campion (1993) 114 mins MA
Campion won the Palme d’Or for this complex, romantic and unpredictable love story, making her the only Oceanian as well as the only female director to ever do so. Set in the mid-19th century, the film portrays New Zealand as a mysterious, surreal and highly sensual edge of the world as a mute, determined immigrant attempts to transport her revered piano across a boldly unfamiliar terrain. The result represents a peak for its director, composer Michael Nyman and antipodean cinema as well as its central cast featuring Holly Hunter, Sam Neill, Harvey Keitel, Kerry Walker and Oscar-winner, Anna Paquin.
35mm print courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia.
9:05pm BRIGHT STAR
Jane Campion (2009) 119 mins PG
Campion’s most recent feature is a “quiet” period drama about the ultimately tragic relationship between Romantic poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his muse and lover, Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Campion eschews the heightened melodrama and booming scores typical of many period movies, while resisting the impulse to modernise character psychology and sexuality, to stage a nuanced examination of youth and love sincere to both the work and life of Keats and Romanticism. Campion’s screenplay features full recitations of Keats’ poetry and correspondence, while focusing on Brawne’s intimate connection to the poet’s work.
35mm print courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia.
7:00pm 2 FRIENDS
Jane Campion (1986) 76 mins PG
Campion’s rarely seen made-for-TV feature of adolescent life, scripted by Helen Garner, utilises the then very unusual device of reverse-time structuring to dissect the vicissitudes about teenage friendship. Its narrative traces back five years in the lives of two school friends who are obliged, by circumstances, to take diverging paths. As in all of Campion’s best work, meaning and emotion emerge through experiential moments captured in the flow of everyday life rather than through a forced or conventional dramatic structure.
Please note, this special Monday screening will be preceded by an introductory talk on Campion by Professor Deb Verhoeven, one of Australia’s leading commentators on film and media, Chair of Media and Communication at Deakin University and author of the groundbreaking Jane Campion published by Routledge in 2009.
7:00pm AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE
Jane Campion (1990) 158 mins M
Adapted from New Zealand author Janet Frame’s renowned and harrowing three-part autobiography, Campion’s international breakthrough uses three actors in its portrait of the writer as young girl, teenager and woman (Kerry Fox). Condemned to psychiatric institutions and administered shock therapy, Frame narrowly escaped lobotomisation when her first book won a major literary prize. Against the majesty of the New Zealand landscape, Campion exquisitely evokes Frame’s sensitivity to the world in all its beautiful, almost overwhelming power. Lauded globally upon its release, the film won the Grand Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival.
Print courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia.
This program includes four of Campion’s best short films largely made during her playful, provocative and truly exploratory early career. It includes her wonderfully strange and droll breakthrough film, Passionless Moments (1983), a series of ten vignettes of superficially unremarkable suburban life; After Hours (1984), a Film Australia production about the investigation of a sexual harassment case; A Girl’s Own Story (1983), a wonderful semi-autobiographical depiction of three teenage girls growing up in the 60s; and The Water Diary (2006), a masterfully staged portrait of sustained drought in an outback community decimated by global warming.
All prints are courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive, Australia.