It was a proud night to be a New Zealander after kiwi auteur Dame Jane Campion won the Academy Award for Best Director at this year’s Oscar ceremony on Sunday evening for helming THE POWER OF THE DOG, her universally acclaimed modernist western based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same title.
The psychological drama became one of the most celebrated films of the year, reflected in its 12 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and certainly the most honoured – with nearly 250 wins from over 300 noms – dominating all 10 Best Lists and Year-End critic groups’ Awards since its world premiere at the 78th Venice Film Festival last September, where Jane won the Silver Lion for Best Direction. She became the first woman to receive two Best Director Oscar nominations and the third to win the category.
The first was for THE PIANO in 1994, losing to Steven Spielberg for SCHLINDLER’S LIST. She did however collect the golden statue for her screenplay written directly for the screen. Steven was also nominated this year for Best Director, for his remake of WEST SIDE STORY. A couple of weeks prior to the Dolby Theatre ceremony, Jane won the BAFTA for Best Film and Direction, the Directors Guild Award and the Crictics Choice Awards for Picture, Direction and Adapted Screenplay all within a few hours of each other, which pretty much summed up the her whirlwind year. The self-proclaimed ‘shy extrovert’ collected just about every accolade going.
Author and academic Dana Polan stated in his 2001 book that Jane Campion is one of the few female directors who can be considered an auteur… “it is the disturbances in her work – the divergences, the dispersions, the tensions, for instance between quirky humour, making strange of the familiar and an interest in the ambiguous, even that which is uncomfortable and which makes the viewer uncomfortable.”
Glenn Whipp, writing recently in the LA Times summarized her contribution to cinema. “She has long been celebrated as an iconoclast, a woman whose radiant films meld beauty and barbarism in their depiction of the world and the flawed humans inhabiting it” Jane was the only woman to win the converted Palme d’Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival for THE PIANO until French director Julia Docournau won last year for TITANE, who presented her with the Lumiere Prize (considered to be cinema’s Nobel Prize) at the Lumiere film festival in Lyon in October.
I caught up with Jane last October at the BFI Southbank after her Screentalk at the London Film Festival, prior to the gala screening of THE POWER OF THE DOG, where we had brief chat and an antipodean connection while kindly signing my quick sketch.