Jane Campion (New Zealand) and Baz Luhrmann (Australia)

Presented By Kathy McKelvie to the Calgary Women’s Literary Club

October 5, 2021

Jane Campion and Baz Luhrmann are both writers/artists with multiple prestigious awards worldwide, as screenwriters, producers, and directors. Both Jane and Baz present strong female characters in their films – but in very different genres!

I thanked Helen, Doloris, Sandy and Flora for their contributions to my presentation. I began by listing the benefits for readers of good writing and underscored that good writing has inspired CWLC members for over 115 years.

Before starting the presentation about the 2 writers, I included a quote from Canadian Director Denis Villeneuve, about enjoying the ‘movie experience’ (Sept 18/21 Weekend Globe and Mail) and my preference for watching movies; whose good screenwriting packs an emotional punch, over reading books! (Thank you to all the ladies in CWLC who indulge me in my presentations which vary from the typical literary works, alone!)

Using the ZOOM technology and the ability to “share screen” through same, I presented Google Slides to offer a different medium to share the information I collected for my presentation.

I gave a quick biography (Wiki, etc.) of Jane Campion, and then extolled the virtues of her many writing projects which have spanned films, TV and theatre. I read a synopsis of her critically acclaimed, 1993 Academy Award-winning movie, ‘The Piano’* and included excerpts of the movie. Jane won the Oscar for screenwriting of a motion picture, for this same film.

I jumped to her most recent project; ‘The Power of the Dog’* for which she has already received the 2021 prestigious Silver Lion Award from the Venice Film Festival as well as much Oscar buzz! I included the movie trailer as well as a synopsis of the film. (*of her 14 writing/production/directorial credits)

In my opinion, although I can appreciate her brilliance for depth of character development as well as the challenges she intertwines in her plots, I find her writing style and subsequent projects to be overall very bleak. I would say that she often demonstrates her feminism, by having her female characters to be triumphant at the end of the terrible tragedies and abuse in which she writes them, but I find that often it is after great acts of misogyny where some male characters often try to exert their male dominance through sexual abuse or physical abuse against the heroines or others. This was a common thread I observed in the works which I researched (IE: movie: Bright Star, Netflix series: Top of the Lake, and movie: The Power of the Dog, among others).

To lighten things up, I switched gears to Baz Luhrmann, Australia’s most commercially successful and prolific filmmaker. Like Jane Campion, he is a writer*, producer and director with a recognizable film style. (*15 writing credits; IMDB)

I offered a quick biography (Wiki, etc.) and included an interview done as recently as 2018 (Ryan Gilbey, The Guardian, International), showing his creative style and influences. I introduced his Red Curtain Trilogy: Strictly Ballroom (1992,) an updated Romeo & Juliette (1996, using Shakespeare’s words,) and the love triangle Moulin Rouge (2001.) using written synopses, and film trailers.

My presentation on Baz culminated and concluded with a short synopsis as well as a movie clip from the film ‘Australia’ (2008.) I am a HUGE fan of the Australian actor ‘Hugh Jackman’ and felt the best way to share my crush on – er I mean – appreciation of this fine actor, was best showcased in the clip of the movie ‘Australia’, where shirtless Hugh Jackman is showering himself with a bucket of fresh water, while unbeknownst to him, Nicole Kidman’s strong, brave, intelligent character is watching; mesmerized by his attractive physique! (Or maybe that was just me!)

Baz Luhrmann writes intelligent female characters who use their feminine wiles when needed to accomplish their self-serving or altruistic purposes, but usually outwit and outlast the opponents to their character plots, before emerging triumphant. He uses humour, and often music, in his plots, and his projects are mostly bright and colourful in their presentation, while drawing the audience into his world of imagination.

I had less time left for Baz Luhrmann after Jane Campion, but I was very glad to end my presentation on a high and brighter note – hopefully emphasising adequately the literary aspects of their work and influences upon their writing styles.