18 May 2014

Blu-ray Review - The Piano (1993)

Drama, Arthouse, World Cinema
Studiocanal UK
BD Release Date:
19 May 2014 (UK)
Run Time:
120 minutes
Jane Campion
Holly Hunter, Harvey Jeitel, Anna Paquin, Sam Neill
Buy:The Piano [Blu-ray] [1993]

As I am writing this, Jane Campion heads the jury at Cannes, a festival that has been criticised again and again for its failure to honour female filmmakers. At the jury press confrence earlier this week, Campion called out this disparity and inherent sexism in the festival, and the film industry as a whole, stating, "time and time again, we don't get our share of representation." It is clear that Campion's appointment, along with a majority female jury, is a mark of intent by the festival organisers, that changes are afoot, but of the 18 films competing for this years top prize only two are by female directors. The fact of the matter is that Campion's powerful and resolute The Piano remains the only film by a female director to win the Palme d'Or and that was way back in 1993. And then, to put a damper on things, that award was shared with Kaige Chen's Farewell My Concubine.

I would be lying if I said that The Piano is my favourite film that competed in Cannes that year but it is nevertheless remarkable. The film follows Ada (Holly Hunter), a mute from the age of six, and her strong-willed daughter Flora (Anna Paquin) as they are uprooted from their home in nineteenth century Scotland and unceremoniously left on a beach in a barely colonised New Zealand where they are to live with Ada's new husband Stewart (Sam Neill), the marriage having been arranged by her father. Her prized possession is her piano which finds its way into the hands of Baines (Harvey Keitel), a neighbouring settler turned half-Maori, resulting in a, for want of a better word, 'love' triangle with devastating consequences. It is a deceptively simple film that puts a fresh spin on the traditional love story, drawing from Gothic romance novels to create a feminist film that educates - female repression and desire being the central themes of the film - while entertaining with its stark and beautiful story. The ending, as Campion agrees, is a let down but does not distract from the director's uncompromising vision. All in all, the timing of Studiocanal's rerelease of The Piano could not have been better and hopefully a new generation of filmgoers will discover this masterful film off the back of Campion's current prominence in the media.


Shane James

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