pourquoi? parce que

Bright Star ****

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Bright StarBright Star is Jane Campion and Andrew Motion’s story of Fanny Brawne and her love for Keats. Like his poetry, it prizes the senses – experience before concept: in colour – rich coordinations of costume and foliage in purples, pinks, blues and earthier tones; in texture – softness of velvet or cotton on treetop brush and hardwood skirting; in sound – vocal and natural harmonies. Love is regarded in its tactile qualities – what more can art aspire to articulate? Each movement – first encounter, discovery, pursuit, withdrawal, physical contact, separation, correspondence, loss, rediscovery, isolation, consummation, twilight, conclusion – is treated briskly with plot, yet spun into luxurious tapestry of emotion and affect.

Her advances are as ambivalent, coy or beguiling, as the jokes of her nemesis, Charles Brown. They are measured in expressions and silence. Keats’ defeated desire hides beneath furrowed brow and protean enthusiasm. Campion summons susurrant notes at each ecstatic touch, when hands first meet, when lips embrace and when hands burrow through hair. Keats worries he may catch alight. Abbie Cornish grasps and claws at the void as Brawne receives nothing from her distant love. Murmurs speak to her joy at a beautiful letter, as do kisses for Toots. The world changes colour and season with her mood, which in turn stems from these gestures. She kneels, her hands roam across the fabrics of his robes as he silently pleads forgiveness. As he summons the verse of bright star, his head rests on her breast, rising and falling, her kiss on the crown of his head. Trapped beyond reach, his sickbed mere inches through the wall, she rests a cheek against cold boards.

It becomes clear that this is a love of incomparable depth – one of those rare loves to render others abstract and pragmatic. That clarity has little to do with story – perhaps a contentious one from Motion – but everything to do with feeling. Oddly, we do not immediately feel much of what goes on between Whishaw and Cornish. It is kept for the characters – shown to us in confidence, but with intimacy. One’s own feelings can be summoned up by this vision of love, but primarily on reflection – its representational route is indirect and unaffecting. I suppose it speaks volumes for Campion that she is reluctant to pluck heartstrings. As it is, Bright Star remains a mesmerizing observation. Once you start to reflect on it, the memory begins to puncture, to open up those wounds: thence the emotion, the resounding authenticity of its vision, the power of this great film.


Bright Star, Dir. & Writ. Jane Campion, Star. Abbie Cornish, Ben Wishaw & Paul Schneider, Jan Chapman Pictures, Australia/UK, 2009
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Written by James P. Campbell

06/11/2009 at 20:39

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