Jane Campion, the pioneering New Zealand-born filmmaker known for her Oscar-winning film The Piano (1993) and now Sundance TV’s “Top of the Lake” series, is being honored with a retrospective look at her innovative film career. “Jane Campion’s Own Stories,” will run from September 8th through September 17th at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in Manhattan. As the only woman to ever win the coveted and prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes, her innovation, strength and perseverance are seen in every aspect of her creative career, making Campion a leader in the industry.
The dynamic filmmaker, by virtue of being female, has had a tough road to success, filled with bumps and potholes that may have derailed many other talented women, but not Campion. From the evocative Sweetie (1989) and the television movie 2 Friends to the provocative The Piano (which garnered Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin Academy Awards), Campion has since struggled to find an audience -- and critics’ approval -- to appreciate her perspective. As evidenced in many interviews, Campion is not shy about why this is true nor how this male-driven business shies away from seeing and hearing a female’s perspective.
By writing and casting strong roles in films ranging from dark comedies to crime thrillers, Campion has paved the way for women in the film industry and provided audiences with new points of view. Given Planet Earth's population makeup by gender (approximately 50/50), it seems long overdue that we have films like the ones Campion makes.
There’s a common thread and theme to Campion’s storytelling technique. While her intriguing stories ring true to life and nature, there is always a somewhat surreal artistic voice heard as well. Cinematically stunning, her vision creates an additional layer upon which the story is told. At the core of Campion’s films is a raw emotionality evident with every on-screen relationship. She develops a feel to her films; it’s not just a story. But she’s not without humor—it’s unusual and sometimes ironic, but it’s there with cruelty and oftentimes tenderness (Holy Smoke). It rings true while creating thought-provoking situations and circumstances. Concepts of love, lust, tragedy and romance are also frequently intertwined and juxtaposed against one another whether the work is fiction or based upon fact. What makes it relatable is that Campion skillfully takes a simplistic concept and weaves together the complexities of life as we all experience it.
Campion is a master at visual storytelling as is evidenced from the beginning of her career to today. She creates beautifully rich and psychologically intense stories all seemingly told from a personal (and female) angle. Her bold and avant-garde style captures the essence of humanity in its purest form, honing in on relationships at every level. Delving into the depths of our muddied psyches through raw and honest characters such as In the Cut, isn’t always easy to watch, but Campion finds the right nuances to bring us complex, rich stories to which we can relate.
As it is with human nature and life, we live and we grow. Over the past several decades, Campion has lived her life with ups and down, mirroring her filmmaking career. Winning the Palme d’Or in 1993 for The Piano was bitter-sweet for Campion who, shortly after the win, lost her newborn son at just 12 days. The birth of her daughter, paired with the reportedly disappointed audience reception of her subsequent films, opened the door for her to primarily focus on motherhood. Now 23, her daughter Alice Englert is an actress and an integral part of Campion’s films as the lead in The Water Diary and in an upcoming episode of “Top of the Lake.” It is no accident that we see motherhood and all its complexities as topics within her work. As with most women, it’s a part of who she is.
But she’s still testing the waters, it seems. Recently finding her new medium of television in which to tell her tales and make her voice heard, Campion plunges into the creative waters head first. The success of her award-winning mini-series “Top of the Lake” is a true testament to what the world is craving to view. She continues to revolutionize storytelling and create a platform upon with her voice can be heard, pushing intellectual and gender boundaries while creating a path for other female writers and directors.
Her daring life accomplishments, thus far, will be honored with “Jane Campion’s Own Stories” at which she will be present on Friday, Sept. 8 for “An Evening with Jane Campion” and again on Saturday, Sept. 9 for a sneak preview of the first two episodes of “Top of the Lake: China Girl.” In addition, Campion’s entire feature filmography on celluloid, short films, and first television feature film 2 Friends and a free “marathon screening” of “The Top of the Lake” will be held. For more information, go to https://www.filmlinc.org/daily/jane-campion-own-stories-begins-september-8/
© Pamela Powell (8/30/17) FF2 Media
Photo Credits: (Top) © 2017 Anthony Harvey (Bottom) © 2003 Screen Gems Inc.
Follow this link to read a review of Jane Campion's film Bright Star by FF2 Media Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner.
Follow this link to read Jan's one-on-one interview with Jane Campion about the making of Bright Star.
Follow this link to join FF2 Media members (including Jan) at a screening of Bright Star at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on September 11, 2017 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in NYC (during Film Linc's "Jane Campion’s Own Stories" series run).