In This Article Jane Campion

  • Introduction
  • Biography
  • Collections of Critical Essays
  • Campion as Auteur
  • Campion, Feminism, and the Woman’s Film
  • Psychoanalytic Approaches
  • Campion’s Status as a National and International Filmmaker

Cinema and Media Studies Jane Campion
by
Alistair Fox
  • LAST REVIEWED: 09 August 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0039

Introduction

Since Jane Campion (b. 1954) was first recognized as a filmmaker of exceptional talent, with the screening of her early short film Peel—An Exercise in Discipline (1982) at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986, she has become acknowledged as one of the most important woman directors of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Especially following the success of The Piano (1993), which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and subsequently three Oscars awarded by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Campion’s films have been the object of a rapidly expanding body of scholarly appraisals. These studies are clustered around a number of key preoccupations: Campion’s status as an auteur; her representation of a distinctive feminine sensibility in films by a woman, about women, and for women; her relations to feminism; her treatment of sexuality; and the issue of her national and international affiliations. In pursuing these topics, scholars have adopted a variety of approaches, ranging from feminist and psychoanalytic interpretations to industry studies and appraisals grounded in postcolonial theory. Predictably, given her singularity and “quirkiness,” Campion has polarized opinion, with some scholars seeing her as one of the greatest of all filmmakers, while others dismiss her as having sold out to commercial concerns in her later films. Irrespective of the controversies regarding her work, Campion is indisputably a filmmaker of singular genius on account of her harnessing of the arts of cinematic representation to reveal unique and deep insights into female subjectivity. While to New Zealanders and Australians her films open windows to an understanding of the dynamics and effects of their cultural formation, her films appeal equally to international audiences because of their universality.

Biography

As of the mid-2010s, published information on Jane Campion is very slight, with much of it having to be gleaned from remarks made by Campion herself, and her sister Anna, in interviews. In the absence of a formal biography, what is known of the circumstances of her formative background and subsequent career can be found in relevant sections of studies that focus on Campion’s films. A number of important interviews with Campion are included in Wexman 1999, but this collection contains none of her New Zealand interviews, does not cover Campion’s later films, and offers only a small selection of the interviews she has given in France. A wider range of interviews are canvassed and cited in Fox 2011, which supplies information not contained in the standard commentaries in Cheshire 2000 and McHugh 2007. Indispensable information concerning Campion’s parents and family background can be found in Gaitanos 2006 and Margolis 2009.

  • Cheshire, Ellen. Jane Campion. Pocket Essentials. Harpenden, UK: Pocket Essentials, 2000.

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    Contains a brief biographical overview of the salient milestones in Campion’s life.

  • Ciment, Michel. Petite planète cinématographique: 50 réalisateurs, 40 ans de cinema, 30 pays. Paris: Stock, 2003.

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    Contains Ciment’s interviews with Campion, originally published in the cinema journal Positif.

  • Fox, Alistair. Jane Campion: Authorship and Personal Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011.

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    Updates the information provided in earlier studies by incorporating new details included in the obituary for Campion’s mother (Edith Campion), and supplements Wexman’s compilation (Wexman 1999) by drawing upon interviews given by Anna Campion, Jane Campion’s New Zealand interviews, and additional interviews given in France.

  • Gaitanos, Sarah. Nola Millar: A Theatrical Life. Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press, 2006.

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    While focusing on the life of Nola Millar, a partner of Edith and Richard Campion in the establishment of the first professional theatrical company in New Zealand, Gaitanos’s biography gives indispensable information on the family life of the Campions.

  • Margolis, Harriet. “The Campions Indulge in The Audition.” In Jane Campion: Cinema, Nation, Identity. Edited by Hilary Radner, Alistair Fox, and Irène Bessière, 39–52. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2009.

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    Margolis explores Anna Campion’s film The Audition (1989) as evidence of the dynamics inherent in the relationship between Jane, her sister, and her mother.

  • McHugh, Kathleen. Jane Campion. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007.

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    Apart from offering a useful summary of Campion’s career, McHugh provides important information on the activities of her father (Richard Campion) as a director of stage plays.

  • Wexman, Virginia Wright, ed. Jane Campion: Interviews. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999.

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    An indispensable source that gathers together interviews given by Campion in Australia, France, and the United States following the release of each of her films up to, and including, Holy Smoke (1999).

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