Thursday, May 2, 2013

What they were saying (NY Mag 1991)

 New York Magazine 29 July 1991

Review of Jane Campion's AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE

 "Jane Campion has made a dry and plain movie from the rapturously lyrical autobiography of the New Zealand writer Janet Frame. The astringency of Campion's visual palette is nevertheless pleasing, and Kerry Fox, a large actress with a thatch of unmanageable red hair, plays the morbidly shy Janet with a streak of vagrant sensuality. Campion revels in the joke that this awkward, unprepossessing woman, diagnosed as a schizophrenic and subjected to electroshock therapy, could emerge as a major writer, but she emphasizes the shyness so much that we never see the aggressive intelligence, the sensibility, the taste - whatever it was that made Frame a writer. Campion appears to love victimization more than art."

More than twenty years later, largely due to the influence of the Campion movie, which has become a much-loved enduring classic, a few new fallacies have been added to the misconceptions that Frame originally attempted to challenge by writing her autobiography in the first place.

(1) The subsequent success of the movie - and its director - has led to the farcical claim one hears these days that Janet Frame was not in fact a major literary figure UNTIL Campion's 'biopic' elevated her out of obscurity.

(2) The casting of 'large' actors to play Frame has also led to a belief that Frame herself - who was thin as a young woman - was overweight.

(3) Campion's exaggeration of Frame's shyness - noted in the above review - has also enabled autism extremists to claim Frame had severe social and communicative disabilities.

It's just a movie guys - a beautiful, haunting one - it's not documentary evidence.

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