Jane Campion is one of the most dynamic — and applauded — filmmakers to emerge from Australasia. Campion's CV includes Cannes-winning road trip Peel, An Angel at My Table, based on the life of writer Janet Frame, and award-winning mini-series Top of the Lake. With her twisted settler romance The Piano (1993), she became the first woman to take the top award at the Cannes Film Festival.
[Jane Campion] has never made an uninteresting or unchallenging film … The Piano is as peculiar and haunting as any film I've seen. American critic Roger Ebert, November 1993
New Zealand's so-called 'cinema of unease' is stretched in new directions in this psychological drama, inspired by real-life interviews with criminals and victim's families. Writer/director Stuart McKenzie's feature debut follows Lisa (Michelle Langstone), a young woman haunted by the rape and murder of a former teenage acquaintance. Lisa's fascination leads her to the victim's parents - and to prison, to interview the charismatic killer (Tim Balme). The result is an intelligent examination of the after effects of violent crime. Shayne Carter provides the soundtrack.
This April 2001 report comes from a function to farewell film salesman Lindsay Shelton. Over 22 years at the NZ Film Commission, Shelton played a key role in selling Kiwi films to overseas markets, including Goodbye Pork Pie, An Angel at My Table, and Once Were Warriors. Those on hand in Wellington to salute his efforts include Film Commission Chief Executive Ruth Harley – who praises Shelton’s "remarkable optimism about New Zealand films" – and directors Vincent Ward, Jane Campion, Peter Jackson (via video link), and John O'Shea, who calls Shelton the "backbone" of the NZFC.
This 1993 interview from the first series of arts show The Edge screened while The Piano was in Kiwi cinemas. Earlier that year Jane Campion had become the first (and only) female director to share the top award at the Cannes Film Festival. Here, she discusses the antipodean character of her next project ( The Portrait of a Lady) and the satisfaction of offering Nicole Kidman a role that isn’t “like a handbag to one of the male stars”. She also muses on working in Hollywood versus her hometown Sydney, and the influence of a New Zealand upbringing on forming her imagination.
Ada (Holly Hunter) has been mute since she was six. She travels from Scotland with her daughter (Anna Paquin) and her grand piano to colonial New Zealand, for an arranged marriage. When her husband, a stoic settler (Sam Neill) sells the piano to Baines (Harvey Keitel), Ada and Baines come to a secret agreement. She can win her piano back key by key by playing for him, as he acts out his desire for her. An especially big hit in Europe, Jane Campion's Oscar-winning tale of sexual emancipation in the bush is the only NZ film to have won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Directed by Jane Campion, An Angel at My Table is adapted from author Janet Frame's renowned three-part autobiography. It threads together a series of images and scenes to evoke Frame's dramatic life story. Originally made as a TV drama, the much-acclaimed dramatisation won cinema release in 35 countries, establishing Campion as an international director, launching actress Kerry Fox, and introduced new audiences to the "mirror city" of Frame's writing. This excerpt follows Frame's life-saving escape from Seacliff Asylum, to first publishing success at Frank Sargeson’s bach.
Anna Campion directs her mother Edith and younger sister Jane in this slyly observed short: a re-imagining of Edith’s (reluctant) audition for a small role in Jane’s An Angel at My Table. From when Edith picks Jane up at the airport en route to her Otaki home, the professional and personal roles blur. Anxiety, huffs and matriarchal needling ensue as an often comic, sometimes poignant domestic tango between the former stage actress and film director Jane plays out in front of the camera. Anna was studying at London’s Royal College of Art when the film was made.
“There are one million passionless moments in your neighbourhood; each has a fragile presence which fades as it forms.” So says a voice in this early Jane Campion collaboration with writer Gerard Lee (Sweetie, Top of the Lake). Made — without permission — while both were students at Australian Film, Television and Radio School, the short eulogises 10 such moments to wry effect, from ‘Sleepy Jeans’ (misheard lyrics), to ‘Sex ... Thing’ (idle yoga thoughts). The celebration of the micro-absurdity of suburban life showed in the Un Certain Regard slot at Cannes 1986.
A father attempts to discipline his son for throwing orange peel out the window on a summertime car-trip. Jane Campion: "This was my first film. I knew these people who all had red hair and they were part of a family. They were also alike in character, extreme and stubborn. Their drive in the country begins an intrigue of awesome belligerence." This tale of domestic tension might have been subtitled "gingernuts". Peel won the Palme d'Or for Best Short Film (1986) making Campion the first woman (and only New Zealander) to achieve Cannes' highest honour.
Three friends cruise inner-city Auckland in a 1946 Ford pickup, as they cope with the changing dynamic of their friendship and encroaching demands of the adult world. In the tradition of American Graffiti it captures the hope promised by a night on the town and a reality that struggles to meet expectations — punctuated by hoons, officious cops and dodgy tow truck operators. Queen Street is a fascinating look at Kiwi car and street culture in the pre-boyracer era, and a snapshot of a downtown that has changed markedly since 1981 when the film screened on TV.