starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee
written by Jane Campion, based on the novel by Thomas Savage
directed by Jane Campion
by Walter Chaw There is about Jane Campion's work the air of the poet, and indeed there may be no better interpreter, translator, or adaptor of poetry than another poet. Her body of work is, to a one, in the thrall of the rapture of language: what words are capable of when arranged properly, powerfully. Campion demonstrates mastery of both what is spoken and what is seen, how words delivered with exquisite, just-so composition and deadly-true execution become, at the moment of their sublimation, images in the mind like witchcraft with no physical intervention in between. Music in the eye. Of all the easy and obvious examples in her work--the imagistic, rapturous biography of John Keats (Bright Star), the voice of the voiceless in The Piano, the shockingly immediate illumination of Kiwi author Janet Frame in An Angel at My Table--the one that springs to mind most easily and often when I'm describing Campion's work is the reaction of New York City English teacher Frankie, played by Meg Ryan, as she contemplates the words of Lorca printed on a literacy campaign poster in a subway car in Campion's In the Cut. She looks upon them as a sinner looks upon the gallery of saints illuminated in the coloured windows of old cathedrals. Words are a rapture, a vehicle, and Campion, with her training as a painter, proves through the medium of film to be the premier painter of words. Loathe to make such pronouncements, I nonetheless spend most days thinking of Campion as my favourite living director and other days thinking of her as my favourite of all time. She is an artist.