Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art -

You've still got It, Jane. You've never not had It, and Bright Star offers further, subtly risky, occasionally frisky, unabashedly romantic proof. Would that all period dramas had greasy hair and restless kitty cats. Would that every love story recognized that two people can grow respectful of each other's talents, even besotted with them, without necessarily entering into them, or fully adopting them as one's own. Would that every under-tested actor in the world got a role in a Jane Campion movie to demonstrate her mettle, or his. And if anything, would that all the critics who are relishing Bright Star will recognize in retrospect that In the Cut was already working toward these exciting dares in variable focus and semi-subversion of literary tropes, and that The Portrait of a Lady is as strong, rich, and evocatively idiosyncratic as this one is, but times ten.

Here's to the global resuscitation of Jane, even if she never should have needed "resuscitating." I'm still clapping in the front row, just like Holly, Anna, and I did back in the day. Granted, they were in the front row of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and I was in the front row of my living room, but the principle was the same!

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Blogger Catherine said...

Oh, I'm so delighted / relieved you liked it! Confession: I kept checking the site throughout the day to see when you'd post your grade and what you'd thought of it. Further, more damning confession: I've only seen one Campion film [you probably know what one]. I shall get on remedying that, pronto, and of course see Bright Star as soon as it opens here.

Also, a head's up: on your sidebar, the 'Film Studies for Free' link actually sends the user to Film Freak Central.

7:24 PM, September 26, 2009  
Anonymous Robert Hamer said...

Pfft, I SO knew you were going to love this film.

9:01 PM, September 26, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Catherine: You can barely go wrong, although I wouldn't start with Holy Smoke!. Almost any of the others is a fairer lead-in, perhaps especially the collected shorts on the Criterion disc of Sweetie, if you can get your hands on that.

@Robert: Is that a pfft of exasperation, or just a noise that means "whispered aside"? I'm the first to concede that Bright Star has its limitations: there are a few too many scenes that start or unfold basically the same way (Fanny enters, Brown looks perturbed, Keats looks Romantic, they stare at each other...), and I was a little worried about the multiple forms of audience-gratification built into the Brown character: snark, "subtextual" man-crushing, a coarse foil to the gentle, willowy Keats... There are others. But what Campion's good at, she's just so wonderful at, and her universes are still, I think, my favorite to inhabit in modern filmdom - probably any filmdom.

9:50 PM, September 26, 2009  
Blogger Colin Low said...

It's likely that it's a pfft of barely concealed mirth, given that if your Campion fandom lasted through her boldly experimental post-Piano period, the chances weren't high that you wouldn't cotton to what less devoted critics were hailing as her "comeback". Like Catherine, though, I've only seen one of Campion's movies (and what a rapturous one it was!), so I can't really comment on the others.

What I'm sheepish to admit, though, is that I keep stopping and restarting my viewings of Portrait of a Lady, much in the way I've tried repeatedly to get into James Joyce's Ulysses, and I'm not sure what the problem is. Maybe it stands in relation to The Piano in the way you described the INLAND EMPIRE/Mulholland Drive and Synecdoche, NY/Eternal Sunshine relations, with fewer inroads for an audience to ride. I usually get as far as the girls' first trip to the museum and I start thinking, "I feel like breaking out The Piano again..."

2:09 AM, September 27, 2009  
Blogger Sam Brooks said...

I'm so glad that you liked this! And I'm quietly dying to know what you thought of Abbie Cornish.

4:15 AM, September 27, 2009  
Anonymous Robert Hamer said...

"Pfft" is me being a smartass. I was simply saying that if anyone was going to endorse this film, it would be you since you are the biggest Jane Campion fan I know.

But trust me, I'm no different. I have a man-crush on Paul Thomas Anderson and it's pretty much a no-brainer that I will probably love his follow-up to There Will Be Blood.

P.S. What did you think of Antichrist? I saw it yesterday and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.

4:04 PM, September 27, 2009  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

i was actually worried about Nick's reaction since he is probably the least pre-biased person i know when it comes to how they respond to any given movie.

but when someone really connects with a filmmaker's sensibility they connect with it. This is why it's a safe bet that i always like to love Almodovar and a safe bet that Nick will always at least like a Campion picture.

but i agree that she's never not had it. The critical reaction to her work (in general -- not particularly this time) is bizarre to me. she's one of the best.

12:18 PM, September 28, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Colin: I'm sympathetic to that experience about Portrait, even though I was rapt throughout. It's certainly not a warm movie. One of my favorite things about those start-and-stop-and-restart habits that we sometimes develop in relation to certain texts is that, in my experience, they can augur a truly unusual and terrific experience once you finally find the right groove (as happened to me the first time I finally soldiered through Beloved, and more recently with my third stab but first finish with James's The Ambassadors). Of course, sometimes it means you're Just Not That Into whatever you're watching or reading. Good luck with Portrait!

@Brooke: I think she's quite wonderful. At a few, very tiny moments, I felt like she was indulging herself just a bit, or else Campion was indulging her: the asphyxiation bit near the end would be a bit much, if the performance and the movie hadn't prepped and earned the emotional payoff so thoroughly. But I mostly thought she was forceful and clear, and admirable in her commitment to not making the smart and mature Fanny even smarter or more mature than the screenplay allowed.

@Robert: I don't get to see Antichrist till it opens here on October 23. I am berzerkly in love with Dancer in the Dark, hugely admiring of Dogville and Breaking the Waves despite some pointed reservations, pretty annoyed by The Five Constructions, a bit lost and overwhelmed by Zentropa/Europa, and totally contemptuous of Manderlay. So I think there's no telling how this one will hit me.

@Nathaniel: That is actually an extraordinary compliment. Thank you! And I'm with you and Robert that it's best to admit that some filmmakers just "do it" for us, even though it makes it weird when an Eastern Promises or a Nenette et Boni comes along and I have to stare at one of my beloveds and go, "I don't get it..." I actually felt this way the first and so far only time I saw Campion's An Angel at My Table and wrote a very huffy and dismissive review, though I wonder now if I'd feel really differently. (In short, I just didn't think it had made the real "leap" from the television platform for which it was intended.)

12:35 PM, September 28, 2009  
Blogger tim r said...

Maybe Angel is your New World? (ie, the Malick film I didn't think I loved on a first fling, until a judicious recut and second viewing showed me the error of my ways). I think everyone has one filmmaker who can do virtually no wrong, though in fact I have two, if we're feeling forgiving towards Wild at Heart, PTA is nearly up there too, and I'm sure hoping Lucrecia Martel can make it three for three...

3:26 AM, September 29, 2009  
Blogger Guy Lodge said...

This is exciting indeed. Between your enthusiasm, and the less Campion-enraptured Shane Danielsen telling me that he thinks "Bright Star" is her best film, my curiosity is through the roof on this one. I agree that she's never made anything approaching a bad film, and get the feeling that "In the Cut" is VEEEERY slowly being critically rehabilitated, though it (and Meg Ryan) will probably never get the credit they deserve.

On an off-topic note, I'm dying to hear you unpack that miserable "D" for "Disgrace," an evaluation you know I'm completely at odds with. I do think that the Cape Town-set first act is mistimed and self-conscious, but I'm sure there's more to your revulsion than that. I still think it's about the most successful treatment of Coetzee's prose imaginable.

9:20 AM, September 29, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Tim: I recently re-watched the first 45 minutes or so of Angel and of course liked it much, much more than I remembered, though not as much as either I or you like The New World. Still, it seems true: the gal hasn't made a bad movie, or even an "okay" movie. (I will add that I'm not quite as enraptured with her early short film A Girl's Own Story as are many Campion-philes, but that's just a case of liking instead of loving.)

@Guy: Can't wait to hear what you think. As for Disgrace, it's coming, and I'm having a really stimulating go-round about it with Glenn Dunks off-board. I'll soon haul this into the light, but I just hate that I've written so few reviews, and if this one's next, after Chéri and the (unfinished) Basterds piece, that's three in a row where I've chimed in just to bad-mouth. So I've gotta see Bright Star again and having something nice to say, or I won't want to say anything at all!

10:21 AM, September 29, 2009  

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