Notebook Primer: Jane Campion

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From early shorts to the wide acclaim of "The Power of the Dog", the New Zealand filmmaker has carved a unique and utterly audacious career.

The New Zealand-born, Australia-based writer-director Jane Campion is one of several female filmmakers to be celebrated as having been the first of something, that consolation prize of the historically marginalized.

She was the first woman to win the Palme d’Or (for The Piano, in 1993). She wasn’t the first woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director (that was the late, great Lina Wertmüller), but was the second—though with The Power of the Dog she recently became the first woman ever to be nominated twice in that category, a feat befitting the film, the filmmaker, and the people for whom this accomplishment is a balefire of hope.

“I would love to see more women directors because they represent half of the population,” Campion has said, “and gave birth to the whole world. Without them writing and being directors, the rest of us are not going to know the whole story.”

Some of that story is told through her audacious body of work, which consists of nine features, several shorts, and two seasons of an acclaimed television series. It’s undeniable that she possesses an idiosyncratic vision, at once titillating and empathic. Bearing consistent motifs and themes, each of her films reflects a turbid authorial sensibility, a discriminating recognition of talent among her collaborators, and a commanding visual aesthetic that treats the Australian suburbs with the same outre potency as a Montana hillscape.

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