NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than 15 years after directing “The Piano,” Jane Campion is earning praise from unexpected quarters for her new film celebrating passion and poetry.
“Bright Star,” to be released nationally in the United States on Friday, tells the tale of 19th-century English Romantic poet John Keats and the love of his life, Fanny Brawne, before the poet died at age 25.
The film is getting excellent reviews but Campion said she was most struck by an admiring letter sent to her by American director Quentin Tarantino -- a master at depicting violence rather than period-piece films.
“It was a love letter, really, about the film,” she told Reuters in an interview this week. “I am really touched. He is one of my biggest heroes of the current generation, I think he is a genius so it was surprising.”
Campion said Tarantino also told her he was inspired by her ability to make personal films that can become mainstream.
Critics too have embraced “Bright Star,” from the New Zealand-born independent director who won mainstream success with “The Piano” and also directed “The Portrait of a Lady.”
“The Jane Campion embraced by 1990s arthouse audiences but who’s been missing of late makes an impressive return,” said Variety.
The New York Times said Campion’s “wild vitality makes this movie romantic in every possible sense of the word.”
The film is not a biopic of Keats’ life, but an exploration of the young love between Keats, played by British actor Ben Whishaw, and Fanny Brawne, played by Australian actress Abbie Cornish.
Campion, who lives in Australia, admits that “In the Cut,” her last film released six years ago, “did spectacularly badly in America,” and she retains a healthy skepticism of Hollywood.
“We guys in Australia never take Americans seriously. They are big with the praise but when it comes to putting the money down, you don’t see it,” she said. “It is very different with the Europeans, they are very slim with what they have to say and then they put the money up for it.”
Running into the Oscar season, Campion’s film, produced by her longtime collaborator Jan Chapman, is being bandied about by critics as an Oscar contender in several categories.
Campion, 55, has won an Oscar for best screenplay and is one of only three women ever nominated in the best director category at the Oscars.
“It’s not because women are incapable, they can make fantastic films,” she said, describing the Oscars as “a game” she wants to be a part of to get a good public airing for her film.
Asked about what it takes to make movies likes hers, Campion said with a smile: “I am not very submissive.”
“I have no fear, I don’t think ‘Oh, this is going to flop, this is going to be horrible’, I just don’t even think about it,” she said. “You just need one degree more inspiration than fear.”
Editing by Claudia Parsons and Xavier Briand