The Piano

Year: 1993
Production Co: Australian Film Finance Corporation
Director: Jane Campion
Producer: Jan Chapman
Writer: Jane Campion
Cast: Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill, Anna Paquin, Cliff Curtis
When I look back this is the first film that made me realise there was a literati in films, a self-appointed cultural establishment that bestowed the mark 'quality' and gave a film an aura of artistic achievement no matter what the ordinary film-going punter would think of it.

At the time I was just an ordinary film-going punter and wondered what all the fuss was about in this story of a muddy land and a horny Maori man who blackmailed a severe-looking mute woman into his bed by giving her access to a piano that her thoughtless new husband forbade her from bringing to her and her daughter's new home.

But like many 'literary' films, it's not the story that matters, it's the language. It's the sensuality of Ada (Hunter) coming alive to her senses as a woman when George (Keitel) lusts after her. It's the texture of the rain and jungle of mid 1800s New Zealand and the smooth gloss of ivory keys the camera caresses like a lover.

Unfortunately for a moviegoer who likes a story, it's still not worth all the brouhaha that accompanied it, even if I can appreciate the cinematic grammar more nowadays. But the importance of the movie in kicking off the modern antipodean film movement can't be overstated. In those days low budget Australian dramas and comedies certainly didn't crowd multiplexes with Hollywood blockbusters like they do today as I write this.

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