Review for The Piano: 25th Anniversary
The Piano is a simple love story that is often cited as one of the best films ever made. Winner of three Oscars, three BAFTAs, a Golden Globe and the Cannes Palme d'Or amongst many other awards it is loved by critics and fans alike.
Ada, mute since birth, and her daughter arrive in New Zealand due to an arranged marriage to Alisdair. When she arrives her husband refuses to transport her beloved piano with her things. She strikes up a bargain with Baines, an illiterate neighbour who makes her a deal. She can earn her piano back, if she plays for him while he observes. The deal is one black key for every lesson. This soon turns to a highly sexual relationship between Ada and Baines which soon becomes her undoing with her new husband, jealous, sexually frustrated and wanting her more than she wants the piano.
The Piano is one of those films that I can never decide whether I enjoy it or not. At times I feel like it is very slow and boring and at others I gasp at just how wonderful it is. It's almost a film I would need to dissect to show the great things and the not so great things about it.
First we have the script and directing by Jane Campion. This is often said to be her masterpiece (though that's not too difficult as I can't think of anything she did of note after this) and the film suffers from being far too slow. At times I feel like they could have cut maybe an hour out of the film and still told the same story. It is true that the time does allow to get to know characters, build up a relationship between them and show what is going on, but when you boil the film down to its basics the film didn't need to be this long.
However, visually the film is both stunning and bleak. At times it is is so drab and boring that I didn't want to look and at others the scenery, costumes and everything else looks amazing. The sex scenes between Ada and Baines are very sexually charged and the set up of this relationship is perfect.
Acting wise, this is almost a film that deserves every acting award it got-and plenty it did. Holly Hunter as Ada and Anna Paquin as her daughter Flora are amazing. Both performances are wonderful and when you consider one is a non-speaking role and one was done by a child makes it even more so. Child acting is generally either for jokes (ie Macauley Culkin) or for sympathy (ie anything Dakota Fanning did as a child). This is neither. This is a strong character and one that Paquin is perfect for and when you next watch True Blood you will amazed that these are the same two people.
Harvey Keitel as Baines and Sam Neill as Alisdair do put on some great performances as the males fighting over or for Ada. Keitel's performance is probably the best of his career and it is surprising he was not nominated for an Oscar for it. Neill's is the typical grouchy man he then went on to perfect in Jurassic Park. The rest of the cast are fine for what they are, but very few add to the film which is more or less a four-person focus.
Michael Nyman's music is generally one of the few things that no one will question in regards to the quality. I was amazed by how effective it is and even more so when I discovered he wasn't nominated for it. The music, whether it is being played by Ada or as part of the soundtrack is simply beautiful and will rank as one of the best scores ever created.
Despite all this, there's probably more positives than negatives and I do need to say that this film is great. It really is. I think my issue is when people talk about it being 'the greatest' or other such hyperbole. It is certainly a film to watch and if you have't I would certainly recommend you to do so.
Now when this film was released previously on Bluray I was dismayed by the lack of extras. Having already reviewed the film previously I was not holding my breath for this set. However, when I saw it was going to be 2 disks I was overjoyed. I expected a multitude of extras and unlike some films this would have been a film where I would have loved to sit there through them. The second disk consists of less than an hour of content.
Now, to me this is a slap in the face to one of the most beautiful films to have been created in the past twenty-five years. To release a set to celebrate its release and add simply a half hour chat between Director Jane Campion and Producer Jan Chapman is insulting. Even more the fact that I know that this could have all easily fit on one disk. I expected a lot more than this and in a way it makes me want to recommend it less. If you do have the previous set then there is no point buying this. The chat between Campion and Chapman is interesting, but nothing groundbreaking and I expected this to be critical analysis, thoughts from the cast, from people who have reviewed or experienced this film. Something. Most of what they say has already been covered in the Commentary.
The Piano is one of those films you need to experience before you make a rash decision about its quality. True, it's not a film you will watch every day, but it's also certainly not a film that you will regret watching. Whether afterwards it makes your 'greatest ever' list is for you to decide.