“This film is a poetic ode and worthwhile homage to one of cinema’s great maestros, a director whose steadfast commitment to her craft, and undying devotion to telling stories that will resonate with a global audience, is firmly recognized and unequivocally celebrated by this revealing and insightful documentary.”
As one of the most revolutionary and important filmmakers of her generation, there are countless ways to describe Dame Jane Campion. Perhaps the most appropriate is that she is a history-maker, in the most sincere sense of the term. An artist of staggering global significance, she is a true iconoclast, and serves as the subject of Jane Campion, The Cinema Woman, a ravishing and compelling documentary by Julie Bertuccelli, who takes us on a whistle-stop tour through the legendary director’s career. It seems appropriate that this film is premiering at this edition of the Cannes Film Festival – it was here that Campion made history as the first woman to win the Short Film Palme d’Or for her student film Peel, which was followed just over a decade later by an even more significant victory as the first woman to earn the prestigious Palme d’Or, remaining the sole female director to have the prize until less than a year ago, when a nearly three-decade drought was ended.
Campion’s entire career has been one built on rebellion, and as we see throughout this riveting documentary, her aims have always been to pursue ambitions larger than her surroundings may have allowed. Bertuccelli, whose reverence for her subject is clear in every scene of this film, paints a vibrant portrait of Campion, chronicling the past four decades in her career. Starting as an ambitious film school student in New Zealand pursuing a life parallel to those of her equally gifted parents (whose work on their national stage remains incredibly influential), she evolved into an essential voice in contemporary cinema, using the medium to explore various subjects that interested her. This film endeavours to take a few decades in the life of an artist and dissect it by exploring how Campion made history, as well as her own keen sense of self-awareness, one of the many qualities that anyone who has spent even a moment hearing her discuss various issues and how they relate to art will immediately recognize as one of her most endearing qualities, and which Bertuccelli captures so beautifully in this film.
Jane Campion, The Cinema Woman finds Bertuccelli meticulously piecing together fragments of the director’s life, allowing her to narrate her story through her own words, not solely in retrospect, but also at various points of her career. Segments from her films and archival footage taken from interviews, press conferences and behind-the-scenes footage are carefully placed together to create a tapestry of Campion’s career, and the viewer can glean invaluable insights from this fascinating journey. She may have made only a small handful of films over the years, but each one is given a thorough examination by Bertuccelli, who curates a wealth of footage taken from her own extensive research and formed into a riveting account of the ways in which cinema was reconfigured once Campion’s visionary approach to storytelling found its way onto the global stage.
If there is one quality that has driven Campion, more than any kind of ambition or artistic theme, it would be her insatiable curiosity – and every moment in Jane Campion, The Cinema Woman demonstrates this in vivid detail. The footage showcases a director with a firm but precise vision and the interviews show an artist whose candour and willingness to allow the audience to have access to some of her more intimate memories, both before and during her artistic career, offers incredible insights into her creative process. In the simplest terms, Campion not only redefined what it means to be a woman working in a field primarily dominated by men, but also the process of narrative storytelling as a whole. This film is a poetic ode and worthwhile homage to one of cinema’s great maestros, a director whose steadfast commitment to her craft, and undying devotion to telling stories that will resonate with a global audience, is firmly recognized and unequivocally celebrated by this revealing and insightful documentary that draws back the curtain on her life and gives us the chance to liaise with a truly extraordinary artist.