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Jane Campion signs psychological western about toxic masculinity with “The Power of the Dog”

New Zealand director Jane Campion, the first woman to win a Palme d’Or at Cannes (for The piano lesson in 1993), is back after twelve years of absence with a psychological western, The Power of the Dog, which questions toxic masculinity.

The film, which won the Silver Lion for Best Direction at the last Venice Film Festival, will not be released in theaters in France, where only subscribers to the American platform Netflix will be able to watch it from December 1.

Adapted from the eponymous novel by Thomas Savage, this feature film of more than two hours takes the viewer to a ranch in Montana in 1925. The life of hardened bachelor Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) is turned upside down by the arrival of the new wife of his brother, the most affable George. The latter secretly married a young widow, Rose (Kirsten Dunst), who arrives with her son Peter from his previous marriage.

Enraged by this change, the cruel Phil begins to harass the newcomer and his son, a sensitive boy who does not square with his idea of ​​virility, creating a toxic atmosphere and a tension at the limits of the bearable in this lost place in surrounded by magnificent and almost deserted landscapes (the film was shot in New Zealand).

In a way, it’s a closed door, and it’s almost like they’re on a small boat in the middle of an ocean. Because even if the landscape is grandiose, we feel isolated: it is immense and very lonely at the same time, especially for Rose.“, analyzes Jane Campion, 67 years old.

With small touches, the director paints a picture of this corseted society of cowboys on the verge of implosion, where a severe morality dominates and where the place of women is still very small. Little by little, the “skeletons“of each of the characters come out of the closet, blurring the image that the protagonists give themselves.

This is the portrayal of an era, and a few women might be slightly frustrated with the character of Rose, but at that time a lot of women didn’t have that much choice.“, recognizes Jane Campion, who stages for the first time the leading male roles.

The Piano Lesson, Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1993, “takes the point of view of women by exploring sensuality. This film takes more of a men’s perspective“, she explains. Note that the music for the film is signed Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead.

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