Jane Campion does not refrain from “telling stories of men”

Last month, she received a Lumière prize in Lyon and in September, the Silver Lion for directing at the Venice Film Festival for The Power of the Dog, his new film available since Wednesday on Netflix. She pits a cowboy played by Benedict Cumberbatch against her new sister-in-law played by Kirsten Dunst. The 67-year-old New Zealand director, the first female gold palm in Cannes for The Piano Lesson was undoubtedly the film personality best placed to reflect on the exceptional international influence of female directors, particularly French directors, such as Julia Ducournau or Audrey Diwan, and on the evolution of the role of women in cinema since #MeToo.

Is it out of provocation that you placed male characters at the center of “The Power of the Dog”?

I believe that there is no reason why directors should refrain from telling stories of men, especially when they also have an influence on women. The look at masculinity and the oppression it can put under, both men and women, made me want to immerse myself in this story by Thomas Savage which evokes, in my opinion, lives wasted by a society. which did not leave the possibility of flourishing. What happened to these people in Montana in the 1920s broke my heart and it has nothing to do with their gender, or the genre in the movie. I am always a little annoyed to see some reduce the film to a simple western…

Do you refuse to enclose your film in a box?

Exactly ! Honestly, it’s a guy’s thing to want to label everything! The Power of the Dog takes place in the American West, that’s right. But the narrative deconstructs the myth of the western with its macho and indestructible guys. This is about getting closer to their reality, not going over a layer of mythology. It was not easy to be a different man back then. I find it unfortunate that we have to reassure the public by sticking labels on the works, it is terribly reductive! It’s like when we used to talk about “women’s films”. Women directors have long been seen as feminists with hairy underarms. These silly ideas have to be brushed aside.

Weren’t these ideas swept away by the #MeToo movement?

Yes and I am delighted. Ten years ago I couldn’t have produced a movie like The Power of the Dog. Knowing that it would be carried out by a woman, the financiers would have declined. There was this tenacious idea that women had neither the competence nor the authority to carry out a collective project, especially of this magnitude. There, if I had trouble finding funding, it was because the film was expensive, not because I am a woman. This is huge progress. #MeToo has obviously given women a better voice. But it’s not just that. I believe that the complexity they often bring to their stories is also important. Audiences want less one-dimensional stories, from different points of view. It can be felt in the cinema, and especially on television. Financiers have realized that while many gentlemen watch sports, many ladies want to see something else and are willing to pay for it. Let’s not lie to ourselves: money is always the center of attention.

Why do you think women directors took so long to win?

We weren’t giving them the opportunity. For years, I felt very lonely with the firm impression that everything interesting was happening in boys. The next generation is coming in force and I am delighted. One success leads to the other and generates the confidence of producers. Women who prove to be good filmmakers are not because they are women, but because they have talent. They just had to be able to express it. It’s funny to think of the number of areas where it was said that women would be unable to succeed and where they ended up excelling.

Have you had it personally?

You have no idea! For a long time I struggled to impose myself because the men in place considered me a pain in the ass. When I left my film school, one of my teachers advised against television not to accept my application to direct the series Dancing Daze for the benefit of boys among his students. It took producer Jan Chapman, who went on to produce my films The Piano Lesson, Holy smoke and Bright Star, goes beyond to impose myself. In this case, I only learned about it later, but it was against this type of behavior that we had to constantly fight. Some women did not hold out. So many wasted talents!

How did you resist during all these years?

I’m not the type to let myself down, that’s what saved me. But I thought of my favorite novelists like Emily Brontë, who undoubtedly had a harder time imposing her vision on her time than I did. I always told myself that no one could steal from me, neither what I had to say, nor what I was deep inside me. And I always refused to compromise, because I knew that if I gave in, it would be all over for me. You won’t see me directing superhero movies, even if I was offered a fortune! I found the same determination in Julia Ducournau. She was the one who gave me the Lumière prize in Lyon.

Did you like his film, “Titane”?

What a shock ! Julia Ducournau goes all out, without apologizing. She takes responsibility for what she shows and what she says. It feels and it’s wonderful to see that such an original movie can be enjoyed so much. The Palme d’Or of Titanium is deserved and I wish the film could also find its place at the Oscars, although I suspect that it will be difficult with such a radical universe. But I love the idea that women can make organic, powerful movies, just great movies. This is what ultimately matters in cinema: the quality of the films.

I think this term is cliché. Not all men look the same and neither do all women. I am convinced, however, that there is a difference in point of view between men and women. It is also undeniable that we are in a patriarchal society and often see things from a male point of view. It’s good to move those lines. Everyone has to gain. Titanium the shows ! In Lyon, I met women of all ages who told me that my films counted in their lives. Some even wore a T-shirt with my name on it. I felt like a rock star. It’s not just a question of “female gaze” but of what we have to say.

Like showing Harvey Keitel nude in “The Piano Lesson”?

Many women came to thank me for that, which made me laugh! I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was “female gaze” though! Quite honestly, I never thought it would have such an effect on so many women. But I fully assume it. It even makes me happy.

How do you see the future?

I remain very vigilant on the rights of women. Of course, things are changing in the area of ​​equality between women and men, but we must not let our guard down. It is always possible to go back when you have to keep moving forward. I always feel full of energy. I am even considering shooting a new film and teaching cinema to promote the emergence of female directors but also directors. I dream of free education full of challenges as I would have liked to have benefited from it in the past.

We want to say thanks to the author of this short article for this remarkable material

Jane Campion does not refrain from “telling stories of men”