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The Piano is a beautiful film in many different respects. In terms of cinematography, I've seen few like it. It is dark and beautiful and compelling. The story seems, on paper, as a torrid love story without much originality. But the sensuous portrayal of Harvey Keitel and Holly Hunter and the complex acting of a young Anna Paquin allow this story to ring true. I was skeptical upon viewing a film so lauded by critics and film snobs, but found myself both moved and connected to the film that holds strangely relevant themes for modern times. It is rare that I love both a film's visual beauty and it's script as well. This is that rare occasion.
This is one of my all-time favorite films. It combines masterful scripting, cinematography, performances, and musical score into a disturbing, erotic, and ultimately uplifting piece. The movie's heroine, wonderfully portrayed by Holly Hunter, is mute (symbolic of the fact that she has no say in her own life), with her daughter (the astonishing Anna Paquin) and her piano as her personal obsessions. Her conscripted husband, coldly played by Sam Neill, is trying to win her heart and her desire in all the wrong ways, while his crude tribal neighbor, sensually played by Harvey Keitel, understands her needs and ultimately captures her ... physically, intellectually, and romantically. The film's message and its delivery are extraordinarily powerful, the cinematic technique is rich ... the sequence shot with Hunt, Pacquin, Keitel and the piano on the beach is one of the best pieces of work I've ever seen. Lasting impact.
There are very few female directors in the film industry that have been
given proper acknowledgment or had their works introduced to mainstream
filmgoers. Jane Campion is one of these precious few, a director who
carefully paces and sculpts her works so that they magnificently flow like
musical interlude. "The Piano" is her ultimate masterpiece, a film of such
simplicity, described with calm and tense complexity. Holly Hunter
an Oscar for her fascinating performance as Ada, a mute woman who is
into an arranged marriage with a New Zealand landowner, played
by Sam Neill, a native Australian actor himself. Ada journeys to New
with her young daughter (Anna Paquin, also an Oscar-winner that year), few
other possessions, and her treasured piano, a part of her that amplifies
voice that she cannot express through vocal communication.
I believe it would be wrong to assume that any of the characters are martyrs in this tragic story, nor would it be right to think Sam Neill's character a villain. You may think this is crazy, but I think the piano itself serves as both a good and bad omen for all that are involved. I would relate it to a "Pandora's box" of sorts, a treasure that exposes all the evil and sin in the world, but which also provides hope as well. The piano is Ada's sounding box, a tool that allows her to escape from a world that does not understand her, but that also threatens her moral compass, removing her from marital conventions and forces her to lose herself.
The performances in "The Piano" are particularly good, especially Holly Hunter's. It is interesting to note that all of Hunter's piano playing in the film is actually Hunter herself performing in front of us. You can visually and aurally feel the mood of Hunter's character through the music she plays. We the audience lose ourselves right along with her, lost upon a sea of music. We see why Keitel becomes enamored by her, and why Neill becomes overcome with jealousy and betrayal. Not many films would allow us to enter the emotions of all three main characters, but this film is truly an exception.
Rarely do we witness real beauty captured on film. "The Piano" is such a visually stunning film, it's almost intoxicating how its atmosphere sweeps across the screen. This landscape is equaled by the performances, bringing understanding and mystery to this wonder. Sometimes symbolism of this nature can be distracting to an audience. "The Piano" dares to follow this symbolic path, and hits a bullseye with full emotional force. Rating: Four stars.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Director-screenwriter Jane Campion started at the movies in the early
1980s at the Australian School of Film and Television... She clearly
emerged from her cultural heritage to become one of the world's
premiere female directors...
Campion's films typically have a treacherous terrain of searing emotional intensity... We recognize ourselves in the ways her characters think and behave... Her work signifies a break with the tragic, the Gothic and the sentimental...
Her exquisite film which won three Academy Awards including one for Campion's screenplay, is not about sex, but about passion...
Jane challenges the viewer on many levels... Her film (literary inspired from 'Wuthering Heights') explores new territory in the delicious handling of female sexuality and pleasure with the ecstasy of a loving relationship...
In one scene Ada, with tears of anger, hits Baines hard across the face, as if she has spoken words of love... With each new breath, with every moment that their eyes remain locked together, the promise of intimacy is confirmed and reconfirmed and detailed... Only their feelings and emotions guide their instincts...
No woman artist had approached sex in such a direct and liberating manner... Campion's scenes shows Baines' face crumpling with the exquisite pain of his pleasure... Ada moving his head to her chest, and Baines struggling through her dress anxious to touch her skin...
Nominated for eight Academy Awards, the film tells the story of Ada, a strong willful 19th-century Scotswoman who hasn't spoken, since she was six years old... Ada has been set up in an arranged marriage to a British emigrant in New Zealand...
The film opens with Ada who is carried to shore on the shoulders of five seamen to meet her husband Stewart, a landowner who is without much emotion or real love... Her large Victorian skirt spreads across the men's arms and backs... On her head a black bonnet... Around her neck her pad and pen...
Campion manages to chose a cast to suit her purpose and style... Ada is not any easy role and Holly Hunter plays her without vanity... Her face is alight with facial expression, sometimes tender, sometimes sad, sometimes humorous, sometimes soft, while her hands and fingers are quick and neat...
Ada speaks through sign-language translated by her young daughter Flora, and through her beloved piano which happens to be the prime source of her expression... She takes great delight in feeling her fingers on her piano's keys... But in the way she eyes the illiterate, uncultured Baines, there is an insolence and lack of respect... We watch her stopping abruptly, indignantly, as he touches her neck...
Harvey Kietel plays the lonely neighbor George Baines, a depressive man who is everything Stewart is not... He has never seen a graceful woman behave with so much abandon... Ada moves to the piano... She wants to touch it, but she is torn by her feelings, wanting it, but not owning it... Baines views Ada totally absorbed in her piano music... He seems satisfied to watch... He finds himself edging irresistibly closer, magnetically drawn to the spectacle...
Baines enjoys her fingers moving on the keys and the small details of motion on her face... Twice he closes his eyes and breathes deeply... He is experiencing a strange sense of appreciation and lust... He feels powerless... He is desperate and romantic... He no longer admires her absorption with the piano... He is jealous of it... His attention finally focuses on her neck as it bends further or closer to the piano... Ada's long white neck proves irresistible... Baines comes across the room, kisses her, and asks: 'Do you know how to bargain, nod if you do. There's a way you can have your piano back.'
Anna Paquin has been proclaimed one of the best child acting roles ever... She gives a subtle and complex performance as the very cute little girl torn between her mother and stepfather... She looks over at the house suddenly aware that the piano playing has stopped suddenly... She investigates the mystery peeping through the various cracks and holes in the loosely built hut... Her venture is one of challenge and curiosity... Her complex portrayal of Flora won her the Best Supporting Actress...
Sam Neill plays the intense, moralistic and very-Victorian husband Alistair Stewart, who never understands his woman's nature... He surveys Baines' hut suspiciously... There are sounds inside which are worrying him... By wondering around the hut, he finds a hole where he can see the two lovers kissing, and undressing... He reels back angry, but just as we might expect him to burst through, he steps up to look again...
Jane Campion creates an unusual film, poetic and lyrical, complimented by a beautiful cinematography of the haunting woods, which by many critics has been named as a masterpiece... She is the first female director to win the Palme d'Or at Cannes...
Jane Campion's Oscar-winning movie follows Ada (played by Holly Hunter), an immigrant to the New Zealand outback and an arranged marriage, who has not spoken for years and lives her life through the sound of her piano. Her husband (played by Sam Neill) is a man without much understanding, who tries to break the connection between his new wife and her piano; in contrast to him is the wild illiterate Baines (played by Harvey Keitel), a tattooed loner, who reaches into Ada's soul and helps her to regain contact with her emotions and ultimately, her voice too. The film is visually compelling, with its muted colours and wide open spaces, and uses the soundtrack by Michael Nyman in such a way so all the elements fit together. Keitel and Hunter give excellent performances within a sensitive and sensual screenplay, while Anna Paquin is impressive as Ada's wise daughter, always watching and always aware. Campion managed to make the story touching, involving, and sexy, and it well deserved the plaudits heaped on it.
If one wants to see true acting, just watch Hollie Hunter in this film.
She does more with her facial expressions than twenty actors can with a
thousand words. Her stature, her presence, her determination are so
intense. One could feel sorry for her in places. She has been ripped
from her world for reasons we cannot fathom. She has been deemed
expendable. When she arrives she expects to be treated properly. Anna
Paquin as her daughter settles into the new environment and begins to
prosper. But it is not without sacrifice. The piano is the symbol of
what was left behind. Her affair with the Maori is partly passion,
partly payment. We never know how much of each. The performances are
stunning across the board and, this time, worthy of Academy Awards.
There are some very sensual scenes and scenes of great danger. There is pain inflicted and selfishness and power. Hollie Hunter rises above it all and makes her way through this quagmire (the rainy muddy jungle in this case), and arises, victorious in her own fashion.
The Piano is an amazing movie- the cinematography stunning- like the piano on the beach and the sinking piano at the end. There is no praise high enough for Holly Hunter's depiction of Ada. Ana Pacquin and Sam O'Neill also shine. And Harvey Keitel- having gone native- by marking his body in the native style- gives a truly sympathetic and daring performance. This movie stays with the viewer long after it is over. At times I actually felt the dampness of the scenery... most of all it explores the regions of the heart- through the innovative music and the body language of Hunter. A film not to be missed by those who appreciate good story and good filmaking. Thanks Jane Campion for this classic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Yes, stupid. I can't find a single word that more accurately describes this
movie. I was looking forward to seeing it and expected to see a good movie.
I do have some spoilers later, so be warned.
There's a woman who refuses to speak, for seemingly no reason at all. I guess so that a movie can be made about it. Stupid. She's forced to leave whatever land she's from because her father has forced her to marry a man who lives in the New Zealand outback, one who she has never met or seen. Stupid.
I guess the biggest problem I had with this movie was that Holly Hunter's character, the heroine, is NOT LIKEABLE! She is cold and unfeeling, and lacks any personality except when she "pours her heart" into her piano. Like that's supposed to be enough to show us any real depth to her personality. But I went with it.
I actually liked Harvey Keitel's character, but I didn't buy his actions. He becomes enamored with the piano and with Hunter's character, again for seemingly no reason. Again, probably so they could make a movie about it. She's cold and unfeeling. She plays a few bars of something or other, and all of the sudden, he's infatuated with her.
Then, in an effort to impress and sweep his new bride off her feet, Sam Neill's character decides to trade Holly's piano to Keitel for some land. Uh, yeah. OK. Like he'd really do that. Like she says in the movie, IT'S HER PIANO! HERS!!! But again, they wouldn't have had a movie unless he did it, so it's OK. So, to get her piano back, Keitel, who uses the piano as an aphrodisiac for some reason, agrees to trade her keys for "favors", which are initially just weird, then turn sexual in nature. Again, it doesn't make much sense, but I went with it.
Then, Neil's character finds out and gets insanely jealous and angry. Why? Holly had given him NOTHING. She has NO PERSONALITY. What is there to be jealous of? Throw her out and forget it. Why does he even care? I can't believe that he loves her, or even LIKES her. Stupid. Then, when she tries to contact Keitel again and Neil finds out, what does he do? He CUTS HER FINGER OFF. Actually, he CHOPS IT OFF WITH AN AXE. This is where the movie reached a new plateau of stupid and ridiculous. So much so, that I laughed out loud when he chopped off her digit.
Neil then has a remarkable change of heart about the whole thing, again for seemingly no reason, and allows Holly to leave with Keitel. On the boat ride out, Holly decides she doesn't want the Piano anymore and orders it thrown into the sea. Now, I understand what's happening here. She's found love and doesn't feel she needs the piano to express herself anymore. That's fine, but she still loves the piano. She loves to play it, and she loves that one in particular. So she just wants to throw it overboard? Again, it's utterly stupid, but I guess they couldn't express the metaphor any other way. However, the stupidity of throwing the piano overboard just to express that metaphor pales in comparison to the stupidity of what happens as the piano goes over.
Holly's foot gets caught in the rope tying that's tied to the piano, and she gets dragged down towards the sea floor along with the piano. Wow, what are the odds. And I knew it was going to happen before they even shoved the piano over. Again, it was done only because they needed to have a metaphor of Holly truly "escaping" the piano, which is what she miraculously does underwater.
Finally, the movie comes to a merciful end with a COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY "they lived happily ever after" scene. This scene is unnecessary whether you liked the movie and bought what it was selling or not.
It's really disappointing to me that this type of high class drivel is made. It's even more disappointing that this drivel is so highly praised. The only thing redeeming about this movie is the performance of Anna Paquin, who is adorable as Holly's daughter. Unfortunately, her performance is tainted because her only real purpose in the movie is to serve as a translator when writing and sign language might slow a scene down too much. I also expected a great score, but thought it was extremely mediocre. Any actor could have learned to play what was in the movie in a matter of weeks.
STUPID. Grade: D-
Can someone explain to me why "The Piano" ain't in the IMDb top 250 and, for example, movies like "Sin City" or "Crash" (!!!!!!!!!!) are????????????? This movie,is,by far, one of the most delicate and intelligent ever; it softly touches you, emotionally AND physically, for the filming and the photography are exceptional. Actors in it are troubling, beautiful and so... beautiful(again,i know)! Holly Hunter, who plays a mute piano goddess and manages with her not enough known acting skills to express more with her eyes,her grace and her tiny hands than 100 Gwyneth paltrows put together!!!(no offense,i much enjoyed Shakespeare in love,but,come on...)Harvey Keitel in this broken-hearted warrior/peasant role is more than touching;love embraces him as it embraces us,viewers. Still, Jane Campion avoids the unfortunately fashionable arrogant and tutorial directors touch (oscar for best movie, Crash?????? where the hell are we??????) and lets the viewer flow on his own in this huge ocean of naked and oh so true feelings and respects the pain and/or the anger (Sam Neil,probably the only role in his carrier that shows his great talent) of her clearly beloved characters.Landscapes,seashores,humid forests,mud,rain: nature, as well as human nature, are captured by Campion's eyes and heart in the most sensitive and unartificial way. And, of course, Michael Nyman's score,which, once heard, becomes a part of you. Yes, definitely, the heart asks pleasure first. So treat your hearts and eyes with this unique and sensual Chef d'oeuvre.
Ada, A woman chosen to be mute, travels with her daughter and baby
grand piano across the seas from England to an exotic land in New
Zealand during the Victorian Era. This woman has been oppressed in her
homeland and denied her womanhood. She has been arranged a marriage
with a Landowner who is afraid of fleshly desire. She meets an exotic
Caucasian male who seduces her into a world she can be herself in. She
is able to release her oppression through their passion.
A film of intrigue. Why make such a story? It has a touch of magical realism. Jane Campion creates a mythical world and fills it with the human condition. Holly Hunter plays Ada with a fierce and graceful flowing note and deservedly won her awards. She plays woman's independence.
The Piano is a strange film and very effecting on it's story. The screen emits the mystery of the forest that surrounds and engulfs Ada's spirit.
Haunting and lyrical.
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