Director’s Chair Introduction: Jane Campion

by Tony Cogan · February 6, 2022 · Uncategorized · No Comments

Deadline: 5th March 2022

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Hello everyone, it’s time to announce the director that will be featured for this months Director’s Chair. Given that we’re in the midst of awards season, I’ve decided to highlight one of the frontrunners for Best Director, so this month I’ve gone for Jane Campion.

Originally studying painting in London and Sydney and growing up in the world of New Zealand theatre, Campion grew dissatisfied with the restrictions of painting and moved towards film, making her first short film Tissues in 1980. She made a few more short films at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School before graduating in 1984. She soon won the Short Film Palme d’Or at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival for her film Peel.

Campion’s first feature film, Sweetie, ended up being highly acclaimed, with it being an influence on filmmaker Carol Morley. Further acclaim came to Campion with An Angel at My Table, a biopic of author Janet Frame. This ended up being the first New Zealand film to play at the Venice Film Festival, winning the Grand Special Jury Prize, along with winning awards at the Toronto Film Festival and Independent Spirit Awards.

Campion’s third film, The Piano, ended up being her most successful film at the time, both critically and commercially. Earning $140 million at the box office against a $7 million budget, The Piano ended up winning the Palme d’Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival, with Campion being the first person to win the award, and was nominated for 8 Oscars, winning Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay, with Campion becoming the second woman to be nominated for Best Director. In 2019, a poll was undertaken by the BBC to find the best films directed by women, with The Piano coming out on top, with nearly 10% of the critics poll putting it in first.

Campion’s next two films, The Portrait of a Lady and Holy Smoke, earned mixed responses from critics and, whilst her film In the Cut received mostly mixed to negative reviews at the time, in recent years it has been reappraised as a feminist erotic thriller, highlighting how the film subverts ideas of the femme fatale and male gaze and deconstructs the idea of romance.

After In the Cut, Campion made Bright Star, about poet John Keats and his lover Fanny Brawne, which was another critical success, competing at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. After Bright Star, Campion worked in TV, creating Top of the Lake and writing and directing several episodes of each series. The first series was shown in its entirety in a single setting at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for the Primetime Emmy for Best Miniseries.

During production of the second series of Top of the Lake, Campion was introduced to the book The Power of the Dog and successfully secured the rights. Several attempts had been made to get an adaptation of The Power of the Dog off the ground, including an attempt by Paul Newman, but Campion was ultimately successful in helming an adaptation, which was distributed by Netflix. Whilst filming in New Zealand and post-production work was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was successfully released in November 2021, receiving a wide array of positive reviews and it is currently one of the top awards contenders, with Campion being one of the frontrunners to win Best Director at the Oscars.

As a reminder, the films of Campion’s you can cover are listed below.

  • Sweetie
  • An Angel at My Table
  • The Piano
  • The Portrait of a Lady
  • Holy Smoke
  • In the Cut
  • Bright Star
  • The Power of the Dog

I look forward to reading what you send me.

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