Now, I'm gonna tell you how to celebrate this auspicious day, especially if you're all, "Yeah, I've seen The Piano." For my buck, that's the greatest movie ever, so watch it again, people. That cream never spoils, and I should know, having seen it 34 times.
Most likely, though, you haven't seen her short films, but you should. Peel (the Cannes prizewinner) and Passionless Moments, the two shorter shorts, are especially delicious: laugh-out-loud funny, surprisingly poignant, and full of that askew visual sense that makes all of Campion's longer flicks so memorable. Act quick and get that out-of-print copy that some fool is selling on Amazon.
As I blogged when Stuart Dryburgh turned 53, The Portrait of a Lady is one of the great, unsung movies of the last 10 years, with Nicole Kidman's best pre-'01 performance (and maybe her best performance, period). The score by Wojciech Kilar is also pantheon material.
Finally, don't be scared of In the Cut, which died in a handful of theaters in 2003, but features some typically brilliant Campion cinematography (c/o Chicago and Collateral D.P. Dion Beebe), another rousing score, more absurdist throw-ins, and a powerfully reckless erotic charge.
If you want to read about some Jane, Virginia Wright Wexman edited a diverting anthology of interviews that reach all the way through the Portrait era. (Meryl Streep, with whom Jane is pictured here, was one of her two original choices to play Merle in that movie. The other anointee who turned her down was Susan Sarandon. Susan said no to make Dead Man Walking, but I dunno why Mary Louise Streep couldn't get with such a terrific part. No prob, though, since Barbara Hershey rocked the joint and enjoyed a long-overdue Oscar nod and some critics awards.)
But back to Campion literature. Dana Polan has a book-length study of Jane's films which I actually haven't read. Maybe tonight is the right moment to shake up the white-chocolate martini, fill up the tub, and see what Dana's got to say. I'm sure y'all will be celebrating Jane's genius in your own ways. If I had my druthers, I'd be tapping out that screenplay I've been working on for years that I'd love Jane to direct, but that's gonna have to be her 52nd birthday present or her 53rd. (Trust me, her present this year is not to have to read my wack, scribbled notes and outlines.)
Still, Jane is the only person I've never actually met whom I thank in my dissertation Acknowledgments, because her films and her sensibility, and The Piano in particular, basically changed the entire direction of my inner life and all of my personal goals when I was a wee 16-year-old. If I ever meet this woman, I hope it's not too public, 'cause that junk is gonna get embarrassing really fast. Just knowing she's somewhere out there, hopefully working on some new gem, is rewarding enough in the meantime. Happy birthday, Baby Jane, and praise be to you!