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  • Writer's pictureEllen Cheshire

Happy Birthday Jane Campion.

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

On Jane Campion's birthday, I thought I'd take some time-out to trace my history and fascination with her extraordinary body of work.

I first saw The Piano (1993) in screen one of the Barbican Cinema when it was first released. I was working there at the time, and so had been looking at the striking poster every day. Although I found themes and characters in the film troubling, I was struck by the look of the film, the soundtrack and Campion’s bravery for featuring a film with such an unlikeable trio.

I subsequently caught up with An Angel at My Table (1990) when it was screened on Channel Four, and loved it.

Jump forward to 1998 and I was coming to the end of a part-time degree in Film and English, in the module on Women’s Cinema we studied The Piano, and wrote an essay based on this question ‘How does Jane Campion re-work the melodrama genre in The Piano?’

Little did I know that two years later I would be asked by Paul Duncan to write the then first book on Jane Campion for the Pocket Essentials series of books he was editing.

In 2001 the Pocket Essentials: Jane Campion was published, it included as many films as I could track down from her early shorts to hints at what Campion might do with the forthcoming adaptation of In the Cut.

Over the years I continued to watch, lecture and read about Campion’s films, and her move into Television, and in 2018 on the 25th anniversary of the release of The Piano I revised and updated my original book for Supernova’s In the Scene series.

As part of the promotion for the book I introduced a number of screenings of The Piano, including at the Falmouth Poly which was recorded as part of The Cinematologists podcast. I also made a brief appearance on the Radio 4 Film Programme, but the main attractions were Carol Morley getting to chat with Jane Campion. I also wrote about Campion’s use of silent film techniques in the July 2018 issue of Sight & Sound.

I remain a keen Campion champion, in May 2021 I will be teaching a six-week course at the City Lit in London on 125 Years of Women Directors from Alice Guy Blache to Greta Gerwig, and yes Campion will be one of the directors I’ll be featuring.

But I'm not the only fan, here's a link to a blog about another famous fan of Jane Campion.

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