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Jane Campion's Bright Star


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#1 Ray

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Posted 10 September 2009 - 06:42 PM

OK folks, any Jane Campion fans/experts out there? I've been wrangled into speaking at a showing of Bright Star, her new biopic about Keats and Fanny Brawne. I'm afraid I haven't seen anything since The Piano.

Cool website here.

#2 abatt

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 06:27 AM

This movie is opening in NYC today.. I've read two reviews (NY Times, NY Post), and both were very positive. I hope to catch this movie in the coming weeks.

#3 dirac

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 09:19 AM

That sounds exciting, Ray. I have mixed feelings about Campion's work - it's usually ithought provoking but not always completely successful, for me. My sympathies in The Piano were with the beleaguered Sam Neill rather than Holly Hunter, and I have an active dislike for Campion's adaptation of The Portrait of a Lady. This new one sounds interesting, though, and like abatt I'm looking forward to seeing it.

The last time I saw Ben Whishaw he played Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited and he was not good, but I'm willing to give him another try. I remember Abbie Cornish as the blond ingenue in Elizabeth: the Golden Age and it was hard to get her measure in that role, although she was lovely to look at.




#4 papeetepatrick

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 10:56 AM

My sympathies in The Piano were with the beleaguered Sam Neill rather than Holly Hunter, and I have an active dislike for Campion's adaptation of The Portrait of a Lady.


I have an active dislike for 'The Piano', absolutely loathe the original music. Thanks for warning about 'Portrait of a Lady', I had intended to finally catch up with it. :off topic: I'm trying to think if I can think of any Henry James adaptations I like, other the both the Kerr and Bergman 'Turn of the Screw', don't like 'The Bostonians', because of casting all wrong, I thought.

#5 Helene

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 01:37 PM

My sympathies in The Piano were with the beleaguered Sam Neill rather than Holly Hunter.

I thought exactly the same.

#6 dirac

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 01:37 PM

OT -Vanessa Redgrave was superb in 'The Bostonians' but otherwise I agree with you about the casting. I remember 'The Europeans' with Lee Remick as being okay, although I haven't seen it for years.

'The Heiress' with de Havilland, Clift, and Richardson is a very good movie, not quite what James had in mind but I like it for itself. (Although personally I would have let Monty in -- after all, it's only money and what else was Olivia planning to do with it? But never mind.)

I admit that when I first heard about 'Bright Star' it sounded like Love Story meets Masterpiece Theater ("What can you say about a wonderful young poet who died?" ) I'm hoping for better, though.

Campion did show a good eye for period detail in The Piano. I remember in particular the way Holly Hunter's hair is greased down and severely parted, exactly the way you see the women's hair in those old daguerrotypes of the period and the way you usually don't see it in movies.

What in particular did you dislike about the original score, Patrick? And does anyone else have some observations on Campion that might be helpful to Ray?

#7 Ray

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 04:44 PM

What in particular did you dislike about the original score, Patrick? And does anyone else have some observations on Campion that might be helpful to Ray?


Alas, the talks are last week's news. Now just waiting for the check :off topic:

#8 dirac

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Posted 28 September 2009 - 05:21 PM

Q&A with Campion from The Onion's A.V. Club.

AVC: So where does “the stuff in the middle” come from? There are the letters, there are biographies, but where does that end, and where do you begin?

JC: That’s is a good question, because I invented quite a lot of stuff, but I did confine myself to the real order. And I didn’t invent crazy things for the hell of it. Probably the furthest I went was the butterfly farm. I don’t think there’s any record of the butterfly farm. [Laughs.] Although I think I took my lead from [Keats] saying, “I wish we were butterflies at three days,” and then imagining that this is summer, and she might be thinking about it or whatever. So really, I’ve been inspired by the letters, by the story, and I used as my parameters the timeline, and then I kind of made my own ballad of Fanny and Keats.

[i]AVC: It seemed like there’s a particular amount of leeway in terms of the way Fanny is defined. Is that fair to say?


JC: It’d have to be both of them, really. As soon as you embody a person, it’s not the real person, even if it was a biopic. No matter how strict you’re trying to be, it’s just going to be invented. And I didn’t really have any problem with that. When I read the story, I started seeing images in my head of who they might be, of what they might seem like or look like. And I guess, for me, this is just one way of approaching the topic of Keats and his poetry. I think there’s hundreds of them. This seemed to me the broadest and most available. For me, it worked, when I read it in a biography. And then from there, I started reading his letters, the whole collection of them, and then I started to read his poetry. Then you can circulate back to the biography again, and so it goes on.



#9 dirac

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 05:28 PM

Did anyone ever see this?

#10 bart

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 06:19 PM

Haven't seen it, but I did read Frances Wilson's review in the Times Literary Supplement. (Not available online.)

Wilson, a biographer of literary figures from the time (more or less) of Keats, comments about the real woman, as seen by some of Keats's 19th-century admirers and as reimagined by Campion.

No one apart from Keats and Jane Campion has ever much liked Fanny Brawne. "She made him ridiculous in the eyes of his friends," wrote the critic and powet PR. Stoddard in 1878, after the publication of Keat's letters to her. "Look at her silhoueette, and say if the cold, hard, haughty young woman who stood for that could love powetry." Charles Armitage Brown, with whom Keats shared a bachelor pad next door to the Brawnes in Hampstead, thought her an interfering flirt and even Keats himself complained that she was "ignorant -- monstrous in her behaviour, flying out in all directions, calling people such names that I was foced lately to make use of the term Minx."

The Minx not only inspired the most perfect love letters in the language ... but now Bright Star, written and dircted by Campion, Fanny's new champion, makes those love letters look like utility bills. As nothing is known about Brawne outside Keat's obsession with her Fanny's own letters have not survived), Campion has had to invent her heroine, and she sees her as prickly, poised and quietly dazzling. It is now Fanny, flawlessly played by Abby Cornish, who is obsessed, and the story of her two-year affair with Keats is less about poems than about sewing, and waiting. "Almost all women sewed," Campion has said in an interview; "they sewed and they waited."

Like Jane Campion's earlier films. .... Bright Star is a costume drama, but in this instance there is more costume than drama. In many ways Bright Star is a film about clothes, about what you wear while you sew and wait. Fanny is not just a seamstress but a fashion designer whose outre creations, from the "triple-pleated mushroom collar" with which she accessorizes her ball gown, to her witty take on a winter bonnet, would not look out of place on the Vivienne Westwood runway.



#11 Quiggin

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 07:56 PM

I haven't seen "Bright Star" but have read some of the reviews -- the the London Times has it as one of the worst films of the year (probably for all the wrong reasons). Stuart Klawans at the Nation, who is usually fairly sensitive, reviewed it favorably along with "25 Shots of Rum," which I liked a lot.

All these films do is risk engaging your emotions instead of your memories of other films. They strive to deepen your experience of life, not substitute for it. Entertainment reporters would call them niche films. I'd say that niche is as big as all outdoors.


But Christopher Ricks in the New York Review ("Undermining Keats") says something like -- Andre Bazin would have said the same thing in a shorter space -- you can't illustrate words with images. In this case, with Keats's words, you will simply destroy them. Bazin or Rudolf Arnheim would go farther and say that words and sounds should always counterpoint the pictures. There is probably an analogous law governing good choreography.

OT: There is a new history and prehistory of the Cahiers du Cinema, which Bazin founded in 1951, written by Emilie Bickerton -- I just picked up a copy and it reads very quickly. Cahiers, according to Peter Wollen, was "the last of a series of twentieth-century critical revolutions in the name of 'modernism'." It was a group of "stubborn orphans and adopted families," including Godard and Truffaut, Rohmer and Rivette, who were quite different in outlook (Rohmer was a socially radical Catholic, along with Bazin). The Cahiers rehabilitated the reputations of Jean Vigo and Robert Flaherty, and published mug shots of the others, especially the practitioners of the heavy cream Cinema of Quality. Also by the early sixties:

There were a number of allegedly "New Wave" films coming out of France that were meade by directors to whom Cahiers was completely opposed. Rene Clement's "Plein Soleil" -- an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's "The Talented Mr Ripley" -- shared personnel and many techniques with more 'authentic' New Wave films ... Clement was playing a similar game [as Ripley]: a director appropriating the New Wave style perfectly ...


I thought that was an interesting footnote to our previous Ripley films discussion.

#12 dirac

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 08:03 PM

Thanks, Quiggin. I read the Ricks review and thought it a trifle overwrought, but then I'm not Keats' biggest fan, although I admire him. I hope BTers who see the film will post their own reviews and comments here!

#13 dirac

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 10:31 AM

I finally did see Bright Star and was very pleasantly surprised, my previous experiences with Campion's movies not being entirely happy ones. Beautiful performances from the two leads and Paul Schneider and little Edie Martin in support, a believable period setting, and Campion presents her fields of flowers with lyricism but no gush and none of the Masterpiece Theater feel one gets from such period films. She has her cultural points to make but makes them without the sledgehammer she's inclined to wield on occasion and they fit perfectly with story and characters.

Andre Bazin would have said the same thing in a shorter space -- you can't illustrate words with images. In this case, with Keats's words, you will simply destroy them


That's a bit much, I'd say. You can never find images that will equal the verses but you can create vivid images all the same and use them to help tell a moving story. Inevitably this makes for a certain reductiveness and at times Campion veers toward the amusingly obvious - Keats recites a line about laying his head on his lady's bosom and guess what happens next - but I enjoyed hearing the lines recited with the conviction that Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw give them, and although these are some of the most famous lines in English lit Whishaw persuades you that they are new minted and still works in progress. Nice movie.


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