Combustible Celluloid
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With: Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Sam Neill, Kerry Walker, Genevieve Lemon, Tungia Baker, Ian Mune, Cliff Curtis
Written by: Jane Campion
Directed by: Jane Campion
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 121
Date: 15/05/1993

The Piano (1993)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Keys to Her Heart

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jane Campion's pet themes and ideas never came together with more physical clarity and emotional resonance than they did with her 1993 masterpiece The Piano.

A mute Scottish woman, Ada (Holly Hunter), and her daughter (Anna Paquin) arrive by boat in a remote corner of New Zealand to complete an arranged marriage to farmer Sam Neill. She has her beloved piano with her and won't budge until someone moves it from the beach. It winds up in the cabin of a tattoo-covered, Maori convert (Harvey Keitel), who offers to "trade" it back to her one key at a time in exchange for various, sometimes sexual, favors.

Campion manages a brilliant visual equivalent for every emotion felt. Nothing quite fits together in Ada's world: her giant petticoat scraping over uneven tree roots and moss-covered bogs, her voiceless lips and her wondrously expressive piano separated into different houses, and above all the image of the piano in the jungle -- civilization clashing with animalistic urges.

If the movie has a flaw, it's that Neill plays the husband as too much of a cuckold. But Keitel is dangerously fascinating and Paquin gives one of the screen's all-time great juvenile performances. Hunter, though, is genuinely miraculous, channeling her every passionate release through her eyes and hands. She and Paquin deservedly won Oscars, as did Campion for her screenplay.

Lionsgate released this Miramax title on Blu-Ray in 2012. The picture and sound quailty is quite nice, though the peculiar light quality of this movie is fairly difficult to capture correctly. The only extra is a trailer.

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