Jane Campion – Her Way
A brief glance at most biographies of Jane Campion will mention the same landmark awards – she was the first woman to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes for The Piano, and the only two-time female Oscar nominee (including one win) for Best Director. Certainly, these prizes are monumental, but offer only a glimpse of the full depth of the idiosyncrasy, originality, and stylistic and tonal diversity that characterises her extensive body of work.
From the abrasive comedy of Sweetie and Holy Smoke to the lyrical melodrama of An Angel at My Table and Bright Star, to the genre-defying In the Cut and The Power of the Dog, Campion’s chief trademark as an auteur is her range – despite her unabashed feminism and the recurrence of strong-willed female characters, she proved to be an equally keen observer of masculinity in all its guises.
Born in New Zealand to parents enmeshed in the country’s tightly knit theatre community, Campion grew up with an affinity for actors that would anticipate the surprising casting coups of her later work (Meg Ryan’s darkly carnal role in In the Cut, Benedict Cumberbatch as an aggressively macho ranch-owner in The Power of the Dog). She entered the Australian film industry while studying at AFTRS, where she made a series of exceptional short films including Peel, which won the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film at Cannes in 1986.
From there, Campion began an extraordinary run culminating in the phenomenon of The Piano, and even then, used her platform to make films that confounded critics – at least many male ones, who Campion once cheekily described as a “mountain of corduroy you have to get through.”
Always a few steps ahead of the zeitgeist, with a profoundly interconnected body of work, it’s a thrill to offer audiences the chance to experience this diverse range of films that nonetheless tell one extraordinary girl’s own story.
Introduction and film notes by Melba Proestos.
Presented by Sydney Film Festival in association with ACMI and NFSA.
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