Jane Campion at JDD: “Women are finally emerging from the earth”

8:00 p.m., November 27, 2021

She was in Lyon in October to receive the Lumière prize and to present a preview of her new film, The Power of the Dog, a twilight western airs from Wednesday on Netflix. Jane Campion, first woman to receive a Palme d’Or at Cannes (in 1993 for The Piano Lesson) took the opportunity to meet Julia Ducournau, crowned on the Croisette this year for Titanium. “Life has drawn an intimate line between us,” said the youngest. Jane saved me from loneliness and above all taught me that becoming a woman was to fight to be free and to stay that way. ” The 67-year-old New Zealand director has always placed complex heroines at the center of her plots, in search of identity and independence in the face of social pressure and sexism.

On the strength of her anthropology and fine arts studies, she sketches characters of rare depth and composes each shot like a painting. In interviews, she shines with her humility and modesty, but also with her humor. “I wish I could speak French. The only words I know are baguette, croissant and boy on a bicycle!”

Your previous film, Bright Star, date of 2009. Why such a long absence?
Indeed, a lot of time has passed… But there were the two seasons of the Top of the Lake series, twelve hours of programming, or the equivalent of six films. A full time job for a fun and educational experience. I moved away from the cinema, but I continued to tell a story by giving free rein to my secret passion for news items and criminal cases! I did things according to the rules of the art. Once I have a project in mind, I do everything I can to bring it to fruition and I know I’m going to get there. My daughter inherited the same perseverance. She asked me for a cat and insisted so much that I gave in. The last decade has also allowed me to take the time to watch her grow.

The folks at Netflix deeply love cinema

Why did you choose to adapt Thomas Savage’s novel?
I have always been galvanized by literature. As a teenager, I devoured the Brontë sisters. I discovered this book which corresponded to my universe and deployed its tentacles, haunted me durably by the themes approached and the way in which its narrative puzzle was assembled. Thomas Savage lived the world and the times he describes. It does not show a fantasized or romantic Wild West, but a universe ruled by a cruel patriarchy in a society excluding deviant, maladjusted people who refuse to bow to conventions.

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What kind of people do you like?
I’m interested in it because it’s human nature! But maybe it is for me a therapeutic step… I also wanted to denounce the physical and psychological violence undergone by the heroine, played by Kirsten Dunst, to tell the spectators that they must fight. How many women are humiliated daily by alpha dominant males and have to endure their mistreatment, their hold? Their suffering pushes me to my limits. So I make a commitment.

Why did you shoot an American western in New Zealand?
I had to find a financially affordable place. It cost millions to build a ranch, a barn, a horse pen and rebuild a town in the Old West. In New Zealand, life is much cheaper than in America. On the other hand, we have magnificent and unspoiled landscapes. When I showed the film to people in Montana, they thanked me for faithfully returning their region! I used the work of photographer Evelyn Cameron [qui a documenté la vie des pionniers du Montana à la fin des années 1890]. It did me good to venture out into the great outdoors after this pandemic which forced us into forced retirement and separation from loved ones. We’ve all lost loved ones, we need to breathe.

The counters were reset in 2021 with the victories of Chloé Zhao at the Oscars, Julia Ducournau in Cannes and Audrey Diwan in Venice

Why a broadcast on Netflix, when The Power of the Dog was designed for the big screen?
It was a very expensive bet, and no one else had the money to make it happen. I looked for other funding, in vain. I realized that the folks at Netflix deeply love cinema, that they want to collaborate with writers on demanding projects. They could take the easy way out and make popular blockbusters by the mile. They take risks, and their followers obviously value quality.

Are you leaving the halls behind?
Of course not! I continue to promote the venue in the world and I salute the vocation of festivals like Cannes which carry out essential selection work. But the distribution window is drastically reduced. The films have three weeks to convince in the cinema, while online they are still there. In France, the media chronology protects national production. But waiting thirty-six months to watch a feature film on television is an eternity. When we see the viewing records on Netflix, we are stunned. Korean series Squid Game, pretty damn good I admit, totaled 90 million views!

You won a Silver Lion in Venice, after a Palme d’Or in Cannes. Are you sensitive to honors?
It’s always a pleasure! I’m already thinking of the Oscars… I want to be part of the conversation I’ve been fighting for! Young girl, I constantly apologized for being there, I was overwhelmed by shyness. I feel much better today. I take this opportunity, because I know that this state of grace will not last. So I put my energy at the service of other ambitions, such as founding a film school in New Zealand. I also sought help from Netflix. I will work on a voluntary basis to transmit, and facilitate the learning of ten students.

Today, women create the content they want to see. They choose for themselves.

You are therefore no longer the only woman to have won the Palme d’Or. Have you seen Titanium?
Yes. It’s a unique film, which won me over with its vitality, honesty and purity. It is still ridiculous to have waited so long since 1993. It is a clear demonstration of the inequality and the lack of diversity that persist. Great white sharks are swimming in troubled waters now! For them, we weren’t able to be doctors or airplane pilots. So, hold a camera… The counters were reset in 2021 with Chloé Zhao’s victories at the Oscars [Nomadland], Julia Ducournau in Cannes and Audrey Diwan in Venice [L’Événement]. We are finally out of the earth to seize our chance! But we must not obscure centuries of male oppression.

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Are you aware of your influence on this new generation of female directors?
I myself was inspired by those who came before me, which are not very numerous: Agnès Varda, Liliana Cavani… I hope to have contributed my stone to the edifice. Thanks to MeToo, the movement has grown. Today, women create the content they want to see. They choose for themselves. In high school, I thought my horizon would be limited. I was not an assiduous student, I only thought of my loves. My boyfriend aspired to a career as a photographer. I immersed myself in the work of Bresson, Buñuel, Fellini, Kubrick, Malick, Coppola. I overcame my fear and went from desire to action. In film school, I saw that there were 75 candidates who wanted to do the same thing as me. So I put all my heart into it.

We want to give thanks to the author of this short article for this remarkable content

Jane Campion at JDD: “Women are finally emerging from the earth”