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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Different Look At Romance
All the things that characterize a Hollywood romance are turned upside down and changed about in this film. The usual fare is the interactions between two urbanites with huge polished smiles stuck to their faces. They enter a relationship which is loud, giddy, and giggly.
In The Piano, the woman doesn't speak at all and both men are stoic sorts who have lived in a...
Published on May 30 2004 by Shaun Williams

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Five star film - two star DVD (transfer)
I just got my copy from Amazon and what a disappointment. The Piano is one of my favorite films and living in Quebec I had a hard time finding the widescreen version of the film. Imagine my joy to find it, finally, here on Amazon. However, having got it, and looked at it, I realize that the picture is a scan from one of the theatrical copies - it is full of dust (black...
Published on March 19 2004 by Mangostan

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5.0 out of 5 stars A film about not compromising, Nov. 27 2002
Andrew Parodi (Oregon, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Piano (Widescreen/Full Screen) [Import] (DVD)
THE PIANO is one of my favorite movies because it's about one of my favorite topics: women who do not compromise. Ada (Holly Hunter) is mute, but she is mute by choice. She stopped talking simply because she didn't think talk amounted to much. It's not surprising that she did not find happiness until she met the equally non-compromising social outcast played by Harvey Keitel.
THE PIANO is a beautiful film with a surreal feel. The shots of the coast of New Zealand seem like paradise, elegant and peaceful. But it is also a hard movie to review because it is so unlike any other I've seen. In many ways it seems to be an ambiguous movie, particularly where Harvey Keitel's nudity is concerned. He's not a classically handsome leading man (nor does Holly Hunter's Ada seem sexy enough to inspire his eager nudity), and yet this is his most notoriously naked performance. This is one of many ways THE PIANO dares and challenges its viewers, as full-frontal male nudity is not the standard Hollywood fair.
This is not a heart-warming tale to leave you feeling good about the world (one scene gave my friend nightmares). So, I would not recommend this to someone looking for a happy evening of entertainment. On the other hand, if your tastes are somewhat outside of the mainstream then you will probably enjoy THE PIANO.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite erotic classic, Aug. 9 2002
K. Bourn "bohemiangirlpdx" (Portland, OR United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Piano (Widescreen/Full Screen) [Import] (DVD)
Jane Campion's "The Piano" does what many truly great films do: It inspires fascinating discussion and provokes mixed reactions. The male friend with whom I saw it back in 1993 and I were so enthralled that we kept our significant others waiting to leave for our respective Christmas vacations because we kept phoning each other to discuss symbolism and interesting themes in the movie. While I continue to absolutely love the film, I also recognize why some viewers have not shared my reaction. Perhaps you have to have at least considered a forbidden love affair or perhaps you have to have found yourself trapped in a relationship where you feel you have lost your voice to appreciate what Campion explores.
The story centers around Ada (Holly Hunter in an Oscar-winning performance) and her daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin--who also won an Oscar for her extraordinary performance). They leave their upper-class home in Scotland after Ada's father (apparently) arranges her marriage. Ada, who has willed herself not to speak since age 6, expresses herself through her beloved piano.
The true story of who fathered Flora is never revealed in the movie, but the context suggests that she is Ada's illegimate child born from an illicit affair. The hinted-at story of Flora's conception provides a key to understanding both why Ada later begins an affair with her New Zealand neighbor Baines (Harvey Keitel) and why she makes a mail-order marriage in the first place. I suspect that Ada's aging father may have wanted to see her settled--preferably far away so that her unconventional behavior would no longer be a source of social embarassment--and given Ada's muteness and out-of-wedlock child, her father probably couldn't find a suitable suitor in mid-Victorian Scotland.
Stewart (Sam Neill) first encounters his future wife on a lonesome gray beach surrounded by her crated belongings. His Maori porters begin carrying many household items up the muddy path to his dreary homestead. But Stewart refuses to bring the piano along, despite Ada's apparent distress and Flora's pleas that her mother MUST have her piano.
Ada's piano, abandoned on the barren New Zealand beach, captures the sense of what 19th century colonial life might have been like for too many women--treasured possessions, the last ties to "civilization" left behind.
Rendered voiceless without her piano, Ada begs Stewart to return for her instrument through notes and more pleas from Flora. Finally she persuades Baines--a colonist whose tattoed face evidences the extent to which he has "gone native" and who is considered less civilized by his neighbors--to guide her back to the beach. Ada comes to life again as she, at last, gets to play. Drawn by her passion for the piano, Baines arranges with Stewart to trade land for the piano. Without consulting his wife, Stewart assures him that Ada will provide lessons too.
During first of these lessons, Ada strikes her own bargain with Baines, whom she still considers a boor: She will trade sexual favors to earn back her piano, one key at a time. Ultimately, her reluctant bargain grows into full-blown love and passion. The dark, brooding tone of "The Piano," however, suggests that something in this situation will go tragically, and probably violently, wrong.
Campion has filled her movie with haunting piano music (actually played by Hunter) and intriguing imagery. The metaphor of piano as voice and losing and regaining one's voice, Flora's role in changing her mother's fate, the question of whether Ada's bargain reflects a woman taking control of her life or just being victimized in a different way, and many other complexities make this a movie worth watching again and again and again.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Another Well-Reviewed Movie I Didn�t Like., April 6 2002
This review is from: The Piano (Widescreen/Full Screen) [Import] (DVD)
April 6, 2002
A skillful and passionate film. An immature concept.
'The Piano' pounds its story conceits very thin (and they
aren't meaty to begin with). What Sam Peckinpah's films are to
adolescent male machismo, Campion's 'The Piano' is to
adolescent female angst.
Great acting? To be sure. Great cinematography? Yes.
Great script? Ehhh.
The stereotypes in this film are worse than horrendous.
They're positively naïve.
Holly Hunter's character (or Overblown Feminist Archetype
#1, the Oppressed But Divine Female) bristles. Boy, does she
bristle. She bristles under the oppression of patriarchal
society. She bristles devoid of personal and financial
freedom. But mostly she bristles in the clutches of a rich and
cultured but insensitive mama's boy (or Overblown Feminist
Archetype #2, the Soulless, Impotent Wimp). Eventually she
finds refuge from her bristling in no less a place than the
primordial jungle, in the arms of a taciturn sex machine who
knows how to keep our lady in her sexual place without trampling
her freedoms (or Overblown Feminist Archetype #3, the Brutish
But Noble Savage).
Oh, come on!
Not that Holly Hunter doesn't bring all of her considerable
talents into play, but her character sinks this film. The story
is centered around her, which is sort of like centering your
refrigerator around a spoiled hunk of Limburger.

For starters, how about this? She's so oppressed she's
lost her voice.
She can only express herself through her piano.
Forgetting for the moment the clatter in our ears (the
overwhelming racket of heavy, thematic gears grinding away),
just on a personal level, what a self-involved wimp! Read your
Austen, your James, or your Wharton. Their put-upon lady leads
are *actual* heroines. They shame Campion's gloomy, pale
little narcissist.
I don't doubt the talent or commitment of anyone involved
with this flick, but it all comes across like the secret, inner
-most revenge fantasy of some painfully shy high school girl.
I can see her now, swathed up to the knuckles in a heavy,
ink-stained black sweater, hunched over her poetry journal,
scribbling away.
By the time Hunter is tangled up in the seaweed (or
Overwrought Symbolic Incident # 233) I suspect some of you will
have reached your limit. I certainly did, and perpetrated my
first and (to date) only public film-going faux-pas, remarking
loudly enough for the rest of the theatre to hear:
"Good. Drown already."
Somebody shushed me from the back, but a wide variety of
strangers around me giggled for a solid half-minute and the
woman in front of me clapped.
So I'm not alone on this one.
PEOPLE WHO'LL LIKE THIS MOVIE: stone Campion fans, indie-
boosters, acting enthusiasts, the recently dumped.
PEOPLE WHO WONT LIKE THIS MOVIE: I have one male friend who
liked it quite a bit, but he has to be dragged kicking and screaming to anything
with a budget over ten million dollars.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Woman finds voice, natives get robbed, May 15 2001
This review is from: Piano. [Import] (VHS Tape)
Let me be clear, I got ahuge lump in my throat when I saw this movie. It's beautifully shot, realistically grubby and the violence is not at hair out of place for the period or for modern New Zealand (on a spiritual if not "Once Were Warriors" level). Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill and Anna Paquin were all stupendous.
Campion here presents us with a wonderfully expatriate view of New Zealand as it was, and to her credit, uncovers many of the dirty secrets in the NZ psyche.
In fact, as a movie about white New Zealanders, this was a 5 star piece of cinema. With the right foregrounding you can see many of the things that are intensely problematic about New Zealand society both historically and now: the blinkered provincialism, the contempt for indigenous people (except as trendy accessories), the horrific valorization of commerce over art (anti-intellectual, anti-artistic and anti-spiritual) and the systematic devaluing of women and love of violence that thrive in the standard blokes-are-us set of understandings of NZ both past and present that you can find in any pub or wine bar in any part of the country on a Friday night.
That being said, the movie also plays the natives for laughs and inexplicably places the character of Bain as a partially-tattooed culture broker for Maori who have English muskets but apparently no command of the English language themselves. While figures like Bain were certainly important during the early years of the New Zealand colony (1800-1840), the following decades when the film is set saw their importance decline rapidly. In any case, relations between Maori and European for almost the whole of the 19th century were much more intensive and intimate than this movie makes out.
This historical elision is actually important because it provides a way for white people to be the sole group at the center of the movie and ignores the fundamental inter-relatedness of the Maori and European communities during this time period. In this vein, Campion can make a movie which does not challenge our understanding of European settlement of this (and other countries) as a heroic endeavor against the odds in some sort of cultural vacuum.
For the record, during the intial phases of English settlement in Aotearoa, Maori in many areas became fluent in English (at least to trade) very quickly. If Sam Neill's little outpost had been established long enough to have an amateur dramatic society there would have been more than a dozen local men and women who would have been fluent enough and canny enough to be giving the English a hefty run for their money.
Maori successes in commerce (the Waikato tribes for instance were sending tons of salt meat, potatoes and other vegetables to Australia on their own merchant ships by the early 1860s) actually led to colonists deliberately starting wars with Maori in order to eliminate superior Maori economic competition. This probably qualifies as one of the most blatant interferences in the free market (too bad there wasn't a World Trade Organization back then!). Maori in some parts of the country owned flour mills, fishing vessels, and toll booths and ordered china tea sets from England.
We have no notion of English barbarism in their own country during this period either. The subtext is that we do not need to know about the burgeoning Industrial Revolution with its smoke stacks and polluted rivers, the Poor Laws which forced debtors into prison and made hundreds of small farmers destitute, the riots over bread, the public hangings or the sale of small children in the streets of London. Like Martians, Holly Hunter and her piano are transported to the beach, no one cares where from. It is the quintessential Euro-settler fantasy: "I come from nowhere with nothing, land here and make the earth productive with my own bare hands and bring civilization."
What this movie shamelessly replicates is a Kiplingesque story of plucky European triumph over the native landscape (and the Philistine colonists as well to be sure - here Sam Neill is placed outside civilization as surely as the Maori). Holly Hunter's character finds true love in a restored genteel setting without any thought to the costs paid by the native people.
It's a great mood peice but lousy history. Thank you sir, may I have another?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing and brilliant, April 17 2001
This review is from: The Piano (Widescreen/Full Screen) [Import] (DVD)
People seem to either love or hate this film, which is understandable because it wants to be approached on an emotional level more than an intellectual one. My boyfriend complained that none of the characters were compelling enough to care about, whereas I could see that the central character is, indeed, the piano and how everything revolves around its voice -- Ada's voice. Listening to her voice, being moved by it, is the key to the entire film.
One of the several engaging themes is that of who is on center stage at any given time. Count the number of times someone is watching someone else: Baines watching Ada play her piano on the beach, actors in a play looking through curtain eyeholes at the audience, the natives in the audience watching the play and believing the actors to be "real", Stewart looking through gaps in the planks to see his wife with another man, Flora watching Stewart attempt to destroy his wife's voice. (Interestingly, this is an assault not on the piano itself but on something more fundamental. And those who believe that Ada's gift of the piano key to Baines is a major faux pas perhaps don't realize that he will know exactly what that white key means though he can't read the words burned into it.)
The disturbing moments, and there are several, are entirely about the piano's (Ada's) voice and how these men attempt to either restrict or manipulate it to get what they want -- one endangering her sense of self while simultaneously using and liberating her, the other denying her self-expression while trying to be her protector and "a good man".
It's a very fine movie for those of a mind to listen.
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4.0 out of 5 stars CLIPPED WINGS, March 26 2001
This review is from: Piano. [Import] (VHS Tape)
I could not understand the hype about this film when I first saw it. It somehow just did not make sense, and I really don't know what I was expecting. A few years passed, I traveled to New Zealand and even visited Karekare beach where many scenes from the film were made. I read the script and then watched the film again and was stricken by so many things about it that I had not appreciated the first time. Holly Hunter won an Oscar for her performance, and although I am sure her role as the mute woman was challenging (and she was very expressive), I did not find her role the most interesting. More interesting were the roles of the excellent Sam Neill and Harvey Keitel. Of course without Hunter's role the supporting roles would not have been as meaty or convincing. But I have to say that Keitel's role as a subtle but firm near-native who falls in love with Hunter's character is clever and sometimes heartbreaking. He goes to outstanding lengths to spend time with Hunter, and eventually he gets what he wants. And eventually they do indeed fall in love, but his frustration along the way is clearly felt. The severe, stern, and controlling behaviour of Sam Neill's character is equally felt. He wants so much to make a family and home together with Hunter's character, but he cannot begin to bend or accommodate her in any way. He makes no effort to love, understand or get to know her really, which is why he ultimately and completely fails. Hunter can only find expression in music. Keitel encourages the music while Neill silences it. After Neill learns of her affair with Keitel he tries to keep her cooped up in the house. She gets her piano back, but she does not care anymore. She gives one of the piano keys to her young daughter (played by Anna Paquin, who won an Oscar for her role) to take to Keitel. Instead she takes them to Neill, feeling angry that Hunter is betraying not only Neill but also her, in a sense. Neill is so frustrated and angry he comes home and chops off some of Hunter's fingers. (The gorgeous soundtrack to the film has a song "I Clipped Your Wing" which alludes to this scene. There is no more perfect analogy to Neill's cutting off Hunter's fingers than to say he was clipping her wing). Eventually Hunter and Keitel leave New Zealand together, but Hunter tries to drown herself on their sailing away. She does not succeed. The story is both tragic and human, but it is also hopeful and imbued with enlightened performances from all the actors.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Women directors--this is how it's done!, Jan. 28 2001
This review is from: Piano. [Import] (VHS Tape)
Even though Steven Spielberg released his magnum opus of Schindler's List in 1993 and walked away with the director's Oscar that year, Jane Campion became only the second woman in Academy history to be nominated for her superior achievement in direction of her work, The Piano, and was perhaps more deserving of the prestigious honor. Some are quick to dismiss this film as a "love triangle" story, and cannot fathom I would compare it to the scope and horror of the Holocaust. Read on, non-believers...
In numerous ways, Campion's direction is more inventive than those who were nominated that year, and more passionate.
The landscape of New Zealand is not merely a location, but comes to serve as a character when interacting with the people in the story. The tangled, mysterious bush of the wilderness becomes a metaphor for the complexity of emotion within the characters and the relationships in which they entwine themselves. The instrument of the piano and its songs come to serve as the soul of the heroine, Ada McGrath. Like the succulent rain ever-present in the film, the emotion literally drips from every frame of the film. This is where Campion most brilliantly succeeds.
The story and original screenplay, which was purely Campion's, not only delves into the odd love triangle, but examines the makeup of an oddly unconventional woman who choses to be silent, yet through everything she does, proves to not be a silent victim of a time when women were little more than possessions to be traded and bartered through a simple exchange of letters.
Even though Ada is signed over in marriage by her father precisely in this manner, we bravely witness a valiant soul who refuses to give love out of duty or obligation. The love which does flow from Ada is a turbulent force, and explores an eroticism not regularly shown in film, nor in a woman, nor in a woman of the late 19th century.
The film is complimented brilliantly by the superb acting of Oscar winners Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin, along with Harvey Keitel and Sam Neill. The sweeping score by Michael Nyman is otherworldly yet soothingly familiar as the compositions lull the viewer into Ada's world and mind. This is as flawless as a film can be. Do not reduce it to a mere love triangle between two men and a woman; at the film's core, the relationships explore issues much more intense and subliminal than that.
If you've ever questioned your feelings but weren't sure why, this film may bring you closer to understanding your own complexities within you. This film should be on everyone's top 10 list. I just wish all of Campion's films were this perfect!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Now that's a man's man & a half . . ., Oct. 30 2000
This review is from: Piano. [Import] (VHS Tape)
I initially rented this video so I could see another one of sexy Harvey Keitel's notoriously gratuitous full frontal nudity scenes - I'll be honest. But as I watched this film, I loved it more & more as the movie progressed! I remember seeing it with my older sister back in '93 & being bored out of my MIND - I was 14, talked all the way through it, & the only thing I remember about it was "the naked guy." Obviously, there is so much more TO this movie!
When I really think about it, it seems that, simply put, there are hardly any happy endings in romantic movies anymore - and cheap, tacky sex scenes in movies are all too common. But this movie was inspiring! I cannot express the amount of joy I felt when Baines ultimately joined Ada - I didn't expect it. (I figured he just came along for the boatride to drop her off back home until I saw the end) The passion Baines showed Ada (particularly in the scene where she slapped him) brought to mind what I loved so much about "The Last of the Mohicans." That walk-through-fires-just-to-touch-you kind of lustfulness, sensuality, & eroticism sends CHILLS down my spine. Jane Campion is brilliant - and gushing is not my style.
I loved this movie!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A film that will stay with your for weeks afterwards., July 17 2000
Karen "Runner Listener" (Everywhere) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Piano (Widescreen/Full Screen) [Import] (DVD)
I was delighted to finally pick up this DVD after having seen this film several years ago. What I remembered most about this work was that it put me into a reflective mood for several weeks.
This film is likely to have you thinking about what things and people are most important in your life, what priorities do you put on them, and how living for what you truly want is the best way to live.
Ada arrives with her daughter on the beach in New Zealand. She has brought all kinds of things that are grossly impractical in the jungle like thing is her piano. Even though Ada is mute, we hear her thoughts via voice over and via her playing of the piano.
Ada is forced through the cirucumstances of her life to question what sort of relationship will make her happy -- that of her new spouse, a perfectly polite and supportive gentleman, and that of a rogue Harvey Keitel, one who goes to great lengths to prostitute Ada's need to express herself via her piano.
A strong performance by all, including Ada's daughter.
Eventually Ada makes her choice and leaves the audience wandering if they have made their choices appropriately.
This is a DVD worth owning, not one to rent. I would characterize this as a chick flick, but not one full of relationship talk -- after all, the main character is mute.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful story, well acted and well directed., June 23 2000
"takintime" (Raleigh, NC USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Piano. [Import] (VHS Tape)
It is the 1800's, after all, and the fate of women who produce children out of wedlock is expected to be grim--all the more so if she is "one of God's dumb creatures"; i.e., mute. So Ada's father probably thought he was doing her an enormous favor to get her married to a prosperous farmer in New Zealand. Sam Neill plays the farmer who probably does love Ada a bit, but who seems more concerned that he has been bilked in a deal when she did not return his ardor. Keitel is brilliant, as always, as Baines, the European who has "gone native" and now feels his own ethnic roots calling to him for apparently the first time in years. Paquin shows promise of great things to come as the daughter-turned-vengeful brat when her mother actually dares to show intense feelings for anyone other than her offspring.
In the end this is a tale of the redemption of the human spirit as Ada (Hunter) learns to love and trust a man again (albeit not her own husband), her husband finally learns the difference between family and property, and Baines finds his longings fulfilled through his ability to sacrifice satisfaction of his own needs for the safety and happiness of the woman he loves.
Fine performances by all involved, including the supporting cast of transplanted UK eccentrics who give just the right comic touch to a very weighty story.
A triumph of a film, the ending of which is slightly Chaucrian when Baines learns that the best way to have your way with a woman is to let her have her way first.
Well done, Campion! You created a masterpiece.
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The Piano (Widescreen/Full Screen) [Import]
The Piano (Widescreen/Full Screen) [Import] by Jane Campion (DVD - 1998)
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