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The Power of the Dog: Why Jane Campion’s startling, sizzling western should win the Oscar for best picture

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SAm Elliott may not have enjoyed the sizzling sexual tension and the grand, glorious views The power of the dog, but the veteran actor is pretty much the only one. Jane Campion’s first full-length feature film in 12 years ruthlessly eliminated the gung-ho tropes of traditional westerns and replaced them with something altogether more subtle and tense. “The fascination of The power of the dog lies in its ambiguity and depth of character,” wrote Geoffrey Macnab in The Independent‘s review in September 2021. “Nothing is obvious here, not even the title.” That complexity allowed both Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst to deliver the best performances of their careers, while newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee earned a well-deserved nomination for Best Supporting actor secured for his portrayal of a troubled young man coming to terms with the suicide of his father and teased for his femininity.

One of those adaptations, seemingly destined never to be made, was Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel, which has been optioned by different producers five times in the past 50 years. At one point, Paul Newman had envisioned bringing the book to the big screen, but it was Campion who finally got the project over the line, working on the screenplay while corresponding with author Annie Proulx, whose 1997 short story Brokeback mountain”. — which became a hit film in 2005 — drew heavily on Savage’s original novel.

Like the long-awaited adjustment itself, The power of the dog is a film that takes its time. What might at first appear to be a rather ponderous pace is actually that Campion flexes her Frank Lloyd Wright muscles, using compression and relaxation in much the same way the acclaimed architect does in his grand houses from the 1920s did. “It’s kind of a post-western, ranch thing,” Campion said IndieWire. “No one has a gun.”

The film deals with masculinity and sexuality in a calm, thoughtful way. That was Elliot – the star of the 1993s tombstone – apparently wasn’t that enthusiastic. “Where’s the western in this western?” he snorted. “I mean, Cumberbatch never got out of his damn guys…every damn time he walked in from anywhere – he never sat on a horse – he went into the f***** house, stormed up the damn stairs.” , lie down in his bed, in his chaps, and play the banjo.” Instead of cowboys riding across the prairie shooting at each other, we see Cumberbatch’s moody Phil Burbank swimming vulnerable and naked in a creek, hiding muscleman magazines in the woods and stroking his prized saddle given to him by the man he loved. has given. Instead of souped-up chicks swinging around the bedposts of a brothel, we have Dunst’s Rose Gordon, a newly remarried widow who quickly falls into alcoholism. nobody inside The power of the dog is happy. Everyone is lonely and everyone wants something they can’t have and know they will never get.

If that all sounds a bit grim, well, that’s because it is. But Ari Wegner’s incredible gaze lends a certain lushness to the sullen action. The second woman ever to be nominated for Best Camera – and one of the youngest at 37 – Wegner was inspired by pioneering British photographer Evelyn Cameron’s striking Montana images at the turn of the century. But despite its setting in the American West, the film was actually shot in Campion’s native New Zealand.

For a film so tangled in the trials of toxic masculinity, The power of the dog has enviable feminist credentials, making Campion the first woman to be twice nominated for an Oscar for best director. She lost with me The piano 1993 to Steven Spielberg and Schindlers Listbut 2022 finally seems to be Campion’s year.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/power-of-the-dog-oscars-2022-best-picture-b2045040.html The Power of the Dog: Why Jane Campion’s startling, sizzling western should win the Oscar for best picture

JOE HERNANDEZ

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