The director revisits her lyrical and sensual work.
TF1 Séries Films devotes its evening to Jane Campionwho leaves favorite of the next Oscars thanks to his new drama, The Power of the Dog (watchable on Netflix). The channel will rebroadcast its classic The Piano Lessonat 9 p.m., then the first episodes of his series Top of the Lake, at 11:15 p.m. In 2017, the filmmaker returned to her beautiful filmo in Première. His remarks can be found below.
Cannes, 1989. Already a favorite on the Croisette since her first steps in the cinema (PeelPalme d’or for short films in 1982), Jane Campion explodes for good with this cross-portrait of two dissimilar sisters (the fat one, the thin one), both plagued by neuroses.
“I find it hard to see some of my early films again. Tissuesfor example, my very first short, shot in super 8: it’s so rudimentary, I don’t even know if you can call it cinema (Laughter) But I saw sweetie Recently, I was pleasantly surprised, it passes the test of time well. It’s a first film, it shows. It’s raw, fits in, not yet “polished”. A bit clumsy but really honest. This is its strength. There are these bizarre framings, this convoluted narration… I was still under the influence at the time. David Lynch? Of course, I was mad about it! By Jim Jarmusch too. And Bunuel, above all. He meant a lot to me, I remember from him the idea that the best way to dynamite social conventions is to behave like a child. sweetie talk about that. But I changed after that movie. I abandoned the irony. Because as you mature, you realize that not everything can be a joke. You experience pain and compassion.”
An Angel at my table (1990)
Superb river evocation (three hours on the clock in its original version) of the life of the New Zealand writer Janet Frame. The intellectual and sexual emancipation of a woman, the artist faced with loneliness, nature as a reflection of the soul… Shot for TV, a compendium of Campion’s cinema.
“I fell in love with the autobiographical books of Janet Frame. Most of the film producers we met answered us: “But who is going to be interested in the story of this chubby redhead who panics when she has her first period? ” (Laughter) I was obsessed with this project, I wanted to do it by all means. We then turned to TV, which offered us the possibility of taking our time, allowing moments of hollowness. An Angel at my table ended up being released in theatres, there was still at the time this difference in prestige between the big and the small screen which has completely shattered since then. This is the first of my New Zealand works, before The Piano Lesson and Top of the Lake, and I tend to think that these are the most personal, the most intimate of all. Is this a self-portrait? Probably a little, yes. Janet’s journey really shook me up. When I was younger, I too had this kind of hypersensitivity that leads you to think that you are unsuitable. I’m 61 today, feeling better, but that chubby redhead still lies dormant inside me.”
The Piano Lesson (1993)
The moment of the big shift. Michael Nyman’s heady soundtrack, Harvey Keitel’s Maori tattoos, dazzling plastic intuitions, then international triumph, the Palme d’Or and the Oscars (for Holly Hunter, little Anna Paquin and the script by Campion). Instant classic.
“It was the first time I had worked with American actors of this caliber. I was terrified at the idea of meeting Harvey Keitel, I imagined him as wild and dangerous as in Scorsese’s films. He turned turned out to be charming. He really wanted to do the film, he was almost begging me to hire him. It was upside down! I almost told him no, moreover, I was afraid that his experience would inhibits, afraid of making me eat raw on the set. He called me one evening to set the rules of the game: “For each scene, I will offer you my interpretation, my vision of things. But if you’re not satisfied, I promise, I’ll work until you are.” I learned a lot about directing actors from him. Before, for me, that meant hiring girlfriends who were actresses and give them orders from morning till night!Laughter) Success ? I hadn’t really seen it coming. A few weeks before being selected for Cannes, I had shown the film to my friend Monty Montgomery (future producer of Portrait of a woman) and he pouted: “It will work well in the Australian arthouse circuit but it will never go any further.” We still laugh about it today.”
portrait of a woman (1996)
In the midst of the 90s romantic wave (Reasons and feelingsby Ang Lee, Judeby Michael Winterbottom, The Age of Innocence, by Scorsese…), Jane Campion seems to be playing on velvet with this adaptation of Henry James. Instead of the expected triumph, it’s commercial flop and a nasty critical backlash.
“After a success like The Piano Lesson, an unspoken business rule says you can afford a box office failure. Me, I didn’t bother, I actually did three in a row! (Laughter) portrait of a woman, Holy Smoke and In the cut. After a painful experience like that, we mourn for a few weeks, and then it passes. It was pretty healthy after all. I understood that if the cinema had to stop overnight, I would not make a disease of it. I will find other means of expression. On the other hand, do not count on me to explain to you why people have rejected portrait of a woman. Too classic? Too sophisticated? No idea…Nicole is amazing in it. We met for the first time in the early 80s, I gave him a role in my short film A Girl’s Own Story, but she had declined, citing exams. She admitted to me recently that she lied – I was asking her to look ugly and it scared her at the time. She was just starting out and dreaming of big glamorous roles.”
Holy Smoke (1999)
The busiest, craziest (most failed?) film by its author. A wacky new-age fable about female sexuality and spirituality, where Harvey Keitel wanders the desert after borrowing Kate Winslet’s evening dress.
“We shot in the Flinders, where Nicolas Roeg had filmed walkabout (Hiking, 1971). A beautiful place, the spiritual heart of Australia in my opinion… This is the film of an angry woman. A pure concentrate of feminine rage! I know it’s divisive, but if there’s one category of viewers it consistently appeals to, it’s young women. Holy Smoke deals with macho domination, the pain of being seen only as a sexual object. The world continues to be dominated by men, it is a bitter realization and it is the subject of the film. Harvey was the ideal partner for this adventure, he has an extremely feminine sensitivity and relationship to the world. Me, I grew up in the 70s, in full boom of feminism, when women were not afraid to shout their dissatisfaction and refused to wax. I formed myself intellectually at that time and I continue to carry this heritage. I’m less angry, I put a little water in my wine. I shave under my arms now… But I’m always on the lookout.”
In the cut (2003)
An identity crisis, a sexual awakening, bits of poetry, the truth at the end of the road… On paper, it’s typical Jane Campion, almost caricatural. In fact, however, it is the film of the first times. First shoot on US soil, first foray into a codified genre (the erotic thriller with a blonde female star). In the end, a transition rather than a revolution.
“Nicole (Kidman) contacted me, she absolutely wanted us to work together again. I told her about this book by Susanna Moore, which she read and loved. but she finally decided not to do it. She was going through a zone of turbulence, she was working too much, she was in the middle of a divorce from Tom Cruise. My credo is that you should never make actors play against their will Meg Ryan arrived on the project, she needed a change of scenery, to prove that she could do something other than romantic comedies, she is perfect in the film. In the cut is a thriller, it’s true, but the genre didn’t interest me that much. My knowledge on the subject was limited to the work of Polanski, and that was more than enough for me – to the chagrin of one of my producers, who pushed me to feed on other films, to build a “referenced” world. But I wanted to confront the question of female sexuality, not make a sub-Basic Instinct.”
The life and loves of the poet John Keats, told like a spring bloom that fades too quickly. After a few sabbatical years, the great return of the director to her romantic obsessions (and to the Cannes competition).
“After In the cut, I wanted to take time for myself. Given the film’s box office results, it wasn’t very complicated. The whole world wasn’t pounding on my door begging me to take my camera back! (Laughter) I wanted to see my daughter grow up, to be by her side during her adolescence. I took the opportunity to reflect on my practice of cinema, to see a lot of old films. I became obsessed with A death row inmate escaped, from Bresson. I shot a short film as a family, The Water Diary (segment of the collective film 8), which was an important step. It made me want to go back to simplicity. I started looking into Keats and his romance with Fanny Brawne. One day, François Ivernel, from Pathé, who had been a producer on In the cut, went for tea. I didn’t want to pitch anything to him. I didn’t particularly want to fight for this film. It’s as if I hope that the desire comes from others rather than from me. Then he asked me what I was working on and I got fired up. I had to be convincing: BrightStar was born that day.”
Top of the Lake (2013)
While auteur cinema seems more and more sclerotic, complicated to finance, Jane Campion plunges into the deep end of the TV series and comes out with one of her masterpieces. A detective story pantheist, with friend Holly Hunter as a feminist guru, alter ego with long white hair.
“In the middle of the 2000s, I discovered Deadwood. I was in a state of shock: “Ah, does it look like that on TV today?” (Laughter). It really opened new horizons. The success of Millennium also appealed to me. That such a powerfully feminist story could have such a global impact was unprecedented. It made me want to return to the detective genre, but in a less “abstract” way than at the time ofIn the cut. I had in mind the image of a young girl who disappears into a lake… When we met the people in charge of BBC 2, they said to us: “Above all, let go. Be as extreme as you wish.” Or the opposite of what movie producers say, who ask you all the time: “Do you think people will like it?” I favored a format of six one-hour episodes, because in 12 or 13 episode seasons, there is always a soft underbelly, a moment when you realize that the writers are saving money ammunition for the end. Some say to top of the lake that it’s a “series”, others that it’s a “mini-series”… It doesn’t matter. I see it as a novel. A filmed novel. This is the new frontier.”