The Piano Blu-ray Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

Feature 9.0
Video 8.5
Audio 8.5
Special Features 8.0
Total 9.0

Distributor: Icon
Running Time: 121 mins
Reviewer: Joshua Blackman
Classification
: G

9.0


The Piano (1993)

Jane Campion is an unashamedly feminist director. This is, after all, the woman who made In the Cut, a mostly failed serial-killer lark known primarily for an unglamorously disrobed Meg Ryan. Ten years earlier she made the universally praised period film The Piano, a raw and confronting study of people on the edge of civilization in the mid 19th century without the skills to communicate effectively with each other.

For the thirty-something protagonist, Ada (Holly Hunter), it is not by choice or lack of awareness: she has been mute since the age of six. She instead communicates through sign language and vicariously through her plucky daughter (Anna Paquin), who acts as interpreter. Her real vehicle of expression, though, is her piano. She brings it with her to New Zealand when her father sells her into marriage with frontiersman, Alistair Stewart (Sam Neill).

In the untamed and almost mythical forest, Ada finds herself stuck oddly between Alistair and Baines (Harvey Keitel), a white man who has tattooed his face in the style of his Maori neighbours. Baines obtains Ada’s piano, up until now still stranded on the beach, in exchange for land from Alistair. He offers the furious Ada a deal: she can buy her piano back, one key at a time, if she will only “teach him piano”.

The piano lessons are however only a cover for the growing sexual attraction between them, a desire that feels as new and seductive as an adolescent discovering their body for the first time. Campion states in the short documentary on the disc that she was interested in the “innocence about sex, erotica and love”, a concept foreign to our modern culture of over-exposure. One of the most striking things about the film is this raw eroticism which is explicit, but not gratuitous.

All the performances are fine, especially Hunter and Paquin, both of whom won oscars from their work. It's remarkable that our sympathies always lie with Hunter even when she does not utter single word on screen. And it's hard to believe Paquin, only 11 at the time, would turn into the woman who is the star of HBO's True Blood, where little of her is left to the imagination. Here she gives a performance only a child star could give: honest and uncluttered by ego and over-calculation.

The score by Michael Nyman has since gone on to be a popular hit, the two centrepieces "The Heart Asks Pleasure First" and "My Big Secret", the most well known. By acting as Ada's metaphorical "voice", the score is massively important. Except for an odd misstep involving belching saxophones, the piano-led score captures the right mix of melancholy and romance, its mix of traditional folk tunes and contemporary styling emotive but unmanipulative. The same could be said of Jane Campion's direction, which is tremendously effective but mostly invisible.

The Blu-ray itself is superb. The video is presented in full 1080i and enhanced 16x9, while the audio is DTS-HD 5.1. The special features are few, but engaging, and include a short fifteen minute archive documentary with interviews with the principals, and a commentary by Jane Campion and producer, Jan Chapman.

Moving, beautifully photographed and performed, all film fans owe it to themselves to have this disc in their library.






 
 



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