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Friday, August 08, 2014

Sweetie (1989) d. Jane Campion

Genevieve Lemon is immortal as Sweetie in Sweetie, Jane Campion's  first film.

Movie Review
Sweetie (1989)
d. Jane Campion
Criterion Collection #356

   Adjusted for inflation Jane Campion's, The Piano grossed over 70 million USD.  However it's Sweetie, her first feature, that interests me, mostly because it's just so weird. The Piano was nominated for three Academy Awards and won two, for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, but Sweetie is no less of a revelation.  It's hard not to view Sweetie through the lense of its Australian-ness.  The "Australian Literature" label on this blog has two entries, both films (Walkabout and The Last Wave.)  Through 1929 there are exactly zero Australian books and one book written by a Kiwi (Katherine Mansfield was born in New Zealand but raised and lived in England.  I'm also totally unfamiliar with any Australian painters or studio artists of note.

 That makes film Australia's primary contribution to world culture.  Campion was a clear and distinct female voice at a time when there were few female auteurs operating anywhere in the world.   Part of the enduring quality of Sweetie is the visual style of the film, with off-kilter camera angles and frame composition.  Another part is the performance of the two central actresses Lemon as Sweetie and Karen Colston as her frigid sister Kay.  Sweetie is a mentally handicapped loud nightmare and the family dynamic is twisted indeed.  There may or may not be an incest theme- everyone who has seen or written the film mentions it, and the film appears to keep it open ended (whether the Father molested Sweetie and or Kay.)

 For sure, you can't forget the character of Sweetie. Truly immortal performance.

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