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Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Piano (1993)

In the mid 19th century, a mute woman (Holly Hunter) and her young daughter (Anna Paquin) travel from Scotland to New Zealand where a marriage to a frontiersman (Sam Neill) has been arranged by her father. The husband is a coarse somewhat confused man but his friend (Harvey Keitel) possesses a sensitivity that eventually wears down her emotional resistance. This haunting, evocative film directed by Jane Campion (who won a best original screenplay Oscar for this) won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival and it's a remarkably sensitive portrait of a woman without a voice, literally of course but metaphorically without a voice in the society of her time. Even her marriage is arranged by her father and no explanation is given to why she simply stopped talking at age six. Hunter's career best performance (Cannes film festival and Oscar best actress awards) is stunning as is the remarkable performance by a then 10 year old Paquin (unlike most child actors, there isn't a false note in her performance) who won the supporting actress Oscar. The score by Michael Nyman is one of those rare scores that become a very part of the film's fabric and the exquisite cinematography is courtesy of Stuart Dryburgh.

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