Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

The Piano (1993)

Directed by Jane Campion

Starring Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill, Anna Paquin


The story about a mute, sexually confused woman who uses her piano as an outlet for her emotions. Good character development. From the first moment, the viewer wonders if/when she’ll talk again. A few plot questions, though. Maybe I missed it, but why is she even there? It’s obviously not her kind of place. Why the boards on the windows? Why isn’t Paquin scared when she sees her Mom bonking another man? And who is her husband? That’s never really made too clear.

Good use of dramatic pauses. Great photography (of course, she had New Zealand to work with). A lot of moving camera with a fuzzy, unrecognizable foreground. Nice burning man shot, a shot which retains some of Campion’s cool weirdness that was evident in sweetie. Interesting Cameron-like blue lighting for the forest and wamer, amber lighting for the cottages. Some pretty heavy love scenes. A lot of peeing. Could that silhouette play performance be a reference to early cinema? The axe scene is intense, and that finger-chopping was almost as nasty as the one in Primal Fear. The drowning scene was well-done. I don’t know about the last shot before the credits, though. Having Hunter play the piano while Keitel seduces her (and during other parts of the film) is a perfect way to motivate the soundtrack. It really fits the mood. Other films tend to slap the music onto a scene to create the mood, but here it comes naturally.

Hunter is kind of ugly with an eerie kind of plainness, but I have to admit that she does a great job. You must be good to carry a performance without words, as in Persona. She carried the performance with her eyes, much like Pacino can do. Can she really play the piano like that? If so, she could have made a living as a concert pianist. Paquin is OK (pretty good for a child actor, I suppose). Good career move and performance by Keitel. But does he have to stand there naked with his thingie showing in all of his movies? We’ve all seen enough of his cock and naked body already, but it’s nice to know he’s getting naked for a movie like this. One of Neill’s less irritating performances. Actually, he was pretty good.

Isn’t Shine another Australian piano movie?

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