Jane Campion’s Own Stories, a retrospective of the groundbreaking filmmaker’s rich and revelatory body of work, is coming to the Film Society of Lincoln Center on September 8-17.
Since her indelible 1989 theatrical feature debut Sweetie, New Zealand–born Jane Campion has been one of the most distinctive talents in world cinema. The first woman awarded the Palme d’Or at Cannes—for her Oscar-winning 1993 feature The Piano—Campion makes films that reflect a highly personal and idiosyncratic style, influenced by her background in anthropology and painting and notable for their visual inventiveness, dark sense of humor, and complex depictions of women and sexuality. For four decades now, Campion has moved freely across genres—family melodrama (Sweetie), gothic romance (The Piano), literary adaptation (An Angel at My Table, The Portrait of a Lady), farce (Holy Smoke), suspense-thriller (In the Cut)—as well as between cinema and television.
Coinciding with the U.S. premiere of Campion’s eagerly awaited series Top of the Lake: China Girl on SundanceTV this September, the Film Society presents a retrospective survey of the director’s work, including her complete feature filmography, entirely on celluloid; her underseen made-for-television first feature Two Friends on 16mm; a program of short films, including three restored early works and two recent ones; and a free marathon screening of the first installment of Top of the Lake held in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center’s Amphitheater.
The filmmaker will appear in person for two special events: An Evening with Jane Campion, a career-spanning discussion to kick off the series on Friday, September 8, and a sneak preview of the first two episodes of Top of the Lake: China Girl on Saturday, September 9, featuring a post-screening Q&A with Campion and series co-creator Gerard Lee.
Tickets for Jane Campion’s Own Stories go on sale August 24, with an early access period for Film Society Members beginning August 22, and are $14; $11 for students and seniors (62+); and $9 for Film Society members. Become a member today! See more and save with the 3+ film discount package. Note: Special pricing will apply to select events.
Organized by Dennis Lim and Tyler Wilson.
Jane Campion’s Own Stories is sponsored by SundanceTV. Top of the Lake: China Girl premieres as a 3-night special event starting September 10.
SundanceTV; See-Saw Films; BBC Worldwide; Australian Film, Television and Radio School; National Film & Sound Archive of Australia; Chicago Film Society; Yale Film Study Center; Kate Richter.
FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS
All films screen at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street) unless otherwise noted.
An Angel at My Table
New Zealand/Australia/UK/USA, 1990, 35mm, 158m
Based on the autobiography of Janet Frame, Campion’s clear-eyed, sprawling feature—initially produced as a television miniseries—depicts the life of New Zealand’s most acclaimed author, who spent eight years hospitalized after a mistaken schizophrenia diagnosis. Divided into three sections, Frame’s story is told through different actresses (Alexia Keogh, Karen Fergusson, and Kerry Fox—each sublime and uncannily matched) who inhabit various ages of the writer’s life, from her childhood in prewar New Zealand, to her introverted adolescence and harrowing years around her institutionalization, to her literary success and experiences around the world. Intricate in its representation of time and interiority, An Angel at My Table is an unsentimental yet emotionally intense portrait of the artist as both narrator and subject. An NYFF28 selection. Print courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia.
Sunday, September 10, 3:00pm
Saturday, September 16, 4:00pm
UK/Australia/France, 2009, 35mm, 119m
Campion’s latest feature film is a quietly tender love story as well as a devastating portrait of an artist beset by tragedy. During the last few years of the fledgling poet’s tragic life, John Keats (Ben Whishaw) is introduced to Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) in London, 1818. Although the two embark on a passionate courtship—to the dismay of others in their circle, including Keats’s friend and writing associate Charles Brown (Paul Schneider)—their vibrant love affair is nonetheless shaded by imminent heartbreak. With Greig Fraser’s delicate cinematography, longtime Campion collaborator Janet Brown’s sophisticated production design (The Piano, The Portrait of a Lady), and the vivacious chemistry between the film’s accomplished young leads, Bright Star is Campion’s most romantic film to date.
Monday, September 11, 6:30pm
Sunday, September 17, 8:00pm
USA/Australia, 1999, 35mm, 115m
Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel turn in brave performances in this madcap comedy of the sexes, written by Jane and her sister Anna Campion (to whom Sweetie is dedicated). After falling under the sway of a cultish guru in India, Ruth Barron (Winslet) is deceived by her parents to return home so that she can be deprogrammed by world-renowned “exit counselor” PJ Waters (Keitel). Something between a therapist and a mercenary, Waters travels halfway around the world and takes Ruth into the Australian bush to interrogate, question, and break down everything she believes—but what begins as a debate over spiritual ideals spirals into a role reversal that must be seen to be believed. Holy Smoke was Campion’s most unusual film since Sweetie: a funny and hallucinatory critique of patriarchal civility, but one whose message is ultimately humanist. An NYFF37 selection.
Sunday, September 10, 8:30pm
Friday, September 15, 6:30pm
In the Cut
USA/UK/Australia, 2003, 35mm, 119m
Based on the novel by Susanna Moore and produced by Nicole Kidman, In the Cut renders the erotic thriller with a haunting, meditative gaze. After learning about the brutal murder of a young woman in her neighborhood, English professor Frannie Avery (Meg Ryan, in a powerful and uncharacteristic role) begins an affair with one of the investigating police detectives, Giovanni Malloy (Mark Ruffalo). As their relationship becomes increasingly passionate, Frannie questions Malloy’s suspicious role in the investigation, and uses sexual desire as a tool for defense and titillation. Framing noughties New York with a soft amber glow and subjective visual style, In the Cut knowingly investigates the means of perception—obscuring, among other archetypes, the line between female victim and femme fatale.
Friday, September 15, 9:00pm
Sunday, September 17, 2:30pm
New Zealand/Australia/France, 1993, 35mm, 121m
Campion became the first female director to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes for this singularly haunting and beautiful tale, suffused with her anthropological, literary, and surrealist impulses. In the 19th century, mute Scotswoman Ada and her young daughter (Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin, who both won Oscars for their roles) move to remote coastal New Zealand to meet her new husband, Stewart (Sam Neill). After he sells her beloved piano—her preferred means of communication—to Baines (Harvey Keitel), Stewart’s employee and a local eccentric, Ada agrees to repossess her property through sexual favors. A mysterious and subdued romance as well as a fearless depiction of power and sexuality, The Piano announced to audiences worldwide the boldly original talent already on display in Sweetie and An Angel at My Table. An NYFF31 selection. Print Courtesy of the Yale Film Study Center.
Sunday, September 10, 6:00pm
Saturday, September 16, 9:00pm
The Portrait of a Lady
UK/USA, 1996, 35mm, 144m
As early as its opening credit sequence, this interpretation of Henry James’s masterwork insinuates a modern, tactile, and perceptive vision that is entirely Campion’s. Nicole Kidman stars as the resolute young American, Isabel Archer, who rejects a proposal from her English cousin (Richard E. Grant) and falls prey to the schemes of two American expatriates, the independent and worldly Madame Merle (Barbara Hershey) and Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich), a dilettante artist with little means but enough cunning to woo Isabel. Sumptuously photographed and exceedingly intelligent, The Portrait of a Lady is a cinematic fever dream fascinated by the pictorial and sensuous forms of dominance within James’s text, and the inextricable bond between romantic love and violence.
Friday, September 8, 9:00pm
Sunday, September 17, 5:00pm
Shorts: 1982-2007 (TRT: 70m)
An Exercise in Discipline: Peel
Australia, 1982, 9m
A father, his son, and sister grow increasingly hostile toward one another after an orange peel is tossed out a car window. Winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or for Best Short Film in 1986.
Australia, 1983, 13m
An omniscient narrator recounts a series of brief, droll vignettes around a neighborhood in Sydney.
A Girl’s Own Story
Australia, 1984, 27m
Campion’s final student film follows the disquieting familial and social encounters of three adolescent girls—Pam, Stella, and Gloria—in 1960s Australia.
The Water Diary
Australia/France, 2006, 18m
Produced for the 2008 anthology film 8 about the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals, The Water Diary is a mystical vision of a family living through a drought in the Australian outback.
The Lady Bug
France, 2007, 3m
A woman dressed like an insect tries to dance while a cleaning man tries to kill her. Made for the collective film To Each His Own Cinema to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival.
Tuesday, September 12, 7:00pm*
Thursday, September 14, 9:00pm*
*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Francesca Beale Theater, 144 West 65th Street
Australia, 1989, 35mm, 97m
If Campion’s Palme d’Or–winning short An Exercise in Discipline: Peel announced a promising new voice in cinema, Sweetie found the filmmaker in full command of her descriptive, surrealist visual style and iconoclastic sense of humor. Co-written by Gerard Lee (Top of the Lake), this bleakly funny and profoundly unsettling film is centered around a pair of dysfunctional sisters in Sydney, Australia: Kay (Karen Colston), a repressed and superstitious twenty-something woman who still lives at home, and the unhinged, domineering Sweetie (Geneviève Lemon), who returns and disturbs the family dynamic. Gradually, the reasons for the sisters’ peculiar adult behavior come into focus. Vibrantly photographed by Sally Bongers, Sweetie depicts Australian suburbia and its residents as both simultaneously mundane and menacing, ludicrous and moving, comical and disturbing. An NYFF27 selection. Print courtesy of the Chicago Film Society.
Saturday, September 9, 9:30pm
Monday, September 11, 9:00pm
Saturday, September 16, 7:00pm
Australia, 1986, 16mm, 76m
A coming-of-age story told in reverse, Campion’s underseen first feature (written by renowned Australian novelist Helen Garner) delicately renders femininity and adolescence through the depiction of two girls’ unraveling friendship. Kris Bidenko and Emma Coles deliver nuanced debut performances as Kelly and Louise, 15-year-olds whose relationship has already ended at the film’s start. Moving backwards from there, Campion reveals—in a manner both tragic and deceptively optimistic—the fleeting moments of the past year that suggest how, where, and when the girls’ paths diverged. Originally made for television, Two Friends screened at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival along with three of Campion’s student films, An Exercise in Discipline: Peel, Passionless Moments, and A Girl’s Own Story.
Tuesday, September 12, 9:00pm*
Thursday, September 14, 7:00pm*
*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Francesca Beale Theater, 144 West 65th Street
An Evening with Jane Campion (TRT approx. 90m)
In anticipation of Top of the Lake: China Girl—a highlight at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, airing on SundanceTV starting in September—Jane Campion will join us at the Film Society of Lincoln Center for a special onstage conversation spanning her entire career, featuring excerpts from her acclaimed crime series as well as her features and short films. She will discuss the work that has inspired and influenced her career and take questions from the audience.
Friday, September 8, 7:00pm
Top of the Lake: China Girl (episodes 1 & 2)
Jane Campion & Ariel Kleiman, UK/Australia/New Zealand/USA, 2017, approx. 120m
Elisabeth Moss reprises her Golden Globe–winning role as Detective Robin Griffin in the second installment of Campion and co-creator Gerard Lee’s acclaimed miniseries, which also features fresh characters played by Nicole Kidman and Gwendoline Christie. Four years after the traumatic events of 2013’s Top of the Lake, Robin struggles with her past while attempting to find normalcy following a break up with her fiancé and the police force. The remote landscape of Laketop, New Zealand, has been exchanged for the urban congestion of Sydney, home to Robin’s latest case, concerning a pregnant corpse found washed ashore. Following the series’ acclaimed premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the Film Society of Lincoln Center is pleased to present a sneak preview of the new installment’s first two episodes, directed by Campion and Ariel Kleiman. A SundanceTV release.
Saturday, September 9, 6:30pm (Q&A with Jane Campion and Gerard Lee)
Top of the Lake
Jane Campion & Garth Davis, New Zealand, 2013, 342m
Elisabeth Moss stars in this thrilling, seven-episode television series, perhaps the toughest, wildest drama Campion has ever made. With its vast, primal setting and six-hour time frame, Top of the Lake is episodic television as epic poem, the Trojan War recast as gender battle. Moss plays a detective who has returned to the bleak rural town where she grew up in order to spend time with her dying mother, and is soon recruited by the sole local police officer (David Wenham) to investigate a case of statutory rape. The 12-year-old victim refuses to disclose who got her pregnant, but there are no lack of suspects. The themes that underscore Campion’s films are all here, particularly the fear that bedevils female agency: of making bad, even deadly, choices in matters of sex and love.
Saturday, September 9, 12:00pm*
*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Amphitheater, 144 West 65th Street