Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Guest Review: In the Cut (Jane Campion, 2003)

This is a guest review from my good friend Chris Elena, whose reviews can be found at his blog, Can You Dig It? Chris is also a writer/director and is he working on some short film projects at present, so keep an eye out for his name. As this month's focus is female directors he was very generous to offer a personal analysis of Jane Campion's controversial 2003 thriller, In the Cut. 

Post-Feminist, sexist and/or gratuitous, whatever you believe In the Cut to be, one can’t deny the power it holds. In this reviewer’s opinion, it’s a masterpiece.


Frannie Avery (Meg Ryan) is a lonely English professor who spends her days teaching a class that doesn’t care, feeding her cats and tending to her love starved and depressed sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Things change drastically, however, when the body of a young woman is found just outside her apartment building. It’s after this discovery that she meets Detective Malloy (Mark Ruffalo), a hard yards New York City cop who takes a liking to Frannie during his investigation. Her desire for a companion and his rough around the edges personality ignite a passionate connection between the two. Their interactions soon become dangerous as the serial killer is revealed to be someone very close to either of them and more women are found brutally murdered in and around the city. Frannie has her suspicions of Malloy and of one of her students, yet can passion cloud a sound judgement of a man she barely knows?

In the Cut is directed by famous New Zealand filmmaker, Jane Campion (who won an Oscar for best screenplay in 1994 for The Piano) and has been considered to be a great feminist filmmaker, with In the Cut being no exception to this. Yes, In the Cut is a feminist piece. The men within this city are incredibly vulgar and unpredictably violent, and the women need love and affection yet struggle to find it at every turn. The city within all of this commotion is filled with grime and phallic symbols but it doesn’t bog down the mystery or the sensuality of the film. In fact it enriches it.

One of the best things about In the Cut and why this reviewer believes it to be a masterpiece, is from the get go, you’re following a strong female protagonist. She needs sex and love yet doesn’t stoop low to find it, she keeps her dignity throughout the film and above all, she’s an interesting character worth following, gender aside. The fact that it’s a post-feminist film only benefits the story and characters as they’re stronger and the story being told is from an original perspective. With all of this said the best thing of all about this film? You don’t even need to keep all of what’s just been said in mind to enjoy the film because as a piece of entertainment, it’s brilliant. The murder mystery is intriguing and unflinching yet you’re left wanting to know what happens next, the sensuality is used for a reason and adds to character development rather than a cheap device to arouse an audience.



One thing that must also be mentioned about In the Cut is that it is very grotesque at times. Yes, it is gratuitous, but it emphasises the murders and the sex within the film for a reason. The city of New York is dirty yet vibrant, and the characters are no different. The gratuitous nature of the film is welcomed and gives a unique perspective to the events we’re to witness as audience members. We’re meant to react to what happens rather than brush it off as just someone being killed or just someone having sex. If they’re going to be used in a film, they’re best remembered as sensory elements rather than cheap tricks.

The performances and direction are perfect. Meg Ryan, despite not being in much anymore, is terrific here; she really fleshes out her character and never misses a beat. Mark Ruffalo is great as always, as is Jennifer Jason Leigh. Could In the Cut have been this effective if directed by a male director? It doesn’t matter - although in this reviewer’s honest opinion, no. What matters is that the film is so rich in detail and so demanding of your respect and concentration that you’re rewarded tenfold with a film that’s brave and unique and holds an experience you won’t forget.

Rating: ★★★★

4 comments:

  1. Great review Chris! I've only seen Campions short film 'Passionless Moments' (really, really early stuff - we looked at in in Australian Cinema last semester), but this seems like something I'd really enjoy. I'm intrigued by this post-feminist cinema - we've been discussing 'the male gaze' a lot at uni this year.

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  2. Nice review Chris. I really liked this one mainly because of Ryan's performance. She really gets down and dirty here and it's a real shame that she doesn't get many more roles nowadays because of what she did with Mr. Crowe, but honestly, I think she is in need of a come-back.

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  3. Hey Chris, you've successfully convinced me that I need to see this film. I love Ruffalo as a general rule, and Meg Ryan! What happened to her?

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  4. Great review! I always wanted to see this movie, I have a feeling I may like it.

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