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I felt the need to just replace the previous ignorant comment
alannarmiller30 July 2007
The Piano is a beautiful film in many different respects. In terms of cinematography, I've seen few like it. It is dark and beautiful and compelling. The story seems, on paper, as a torrid love story without much originality. But the sensuous portrayal of Harvey Keitel and Holly Hunter and the complex acting of a young Anna Paquin allow this story to ring true. I was skeptical upon viewing a film so lauded by critics and film snobs, but found myself both moved and connected to the film that holds strangely relevant themes for modern times. It is rare that I love both a film's visual beauty and it's script as well. This is that rare occasion.
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Amazing Film Making
namaturner6 February 2001
This is one of my all-time favorite films. It combines masterful scripting, cinematography, performances, and musical score into a disturbing, erotic, and ultimately uplifting piece. The movie's heroine, wonderfully portrayed by Holly Hunter, is mute (symbolic of the fact that she has no say in her own life), with her daughter (the astonishing Anna Paquin) and her piano as her personal obsessions. Her conscripted husband, coldly played by Sam Neill, is trying to win her heart and her desire in all the wrong ways, while his crude tribal neighbor, sensually played by Harvey Keitel, understands her needs and ultimately captures her ... physically, intellectually, and romantically. The film's message and its delivery are extraordinarily powerful, the cinematic technique is rich ... the sequence shot with Hunt, Pacquin, Keitel and the piano on the beach is one of the best pieces of work I've ever seen. Lasting impact.
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A woman's idea of seduction, not a man's
sworden13 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I wonder if an assessment of all the bad reviews of this movie would include almost all men. Although there are certainly men who enjoyed this movie, I can understand why a lot of men would fail to appreciate it, simply because so much of its sensual potency deals with what is inextricably feminine.

I just watched it for the the first time in ten years, and I was as wowed by it as I was the first time. If you told me I would ever find Harvey Keitel sexy, I would have called you crazy...but ooh baby! The man sees her inner passion and is transfixed, then reaches out to her with a graphicness that is somehow also tender, almost reverential. In contrast, Sam Neill is blindly reaching out like he would to a wooden doll, not seeing "her" at all. It's a delicious contrast and heightens the beauty of the very real connection that occurs between the lovers.

Ada (Holly Hunter's) response is to be wooed despite herself. She doesn't "want" to give herself to this man who is so contrary to her image of a lover, but she recognizes his identification with who she is. Willful as she is, once her heart is given, it becomes impossible for her to do other than to seek him out. This is truly an archetypal dance.
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Magnificent, symbolic film masterpiece plays beautifully, like a piano.
movieman927 June 1999
There are very few female directors in the film industry that have been given proper acknowledgment or had their works introduced to mainstream filmgoers. Jane Campion is one of these precious few, a director who carefully paces and sculpts her works so that they magnificently flow like a musical interlude. "The Piano" is her ultimate masterpiece, a film of such simplicity, described with calm and tense complexity. Holly Hunter received an Oscar for her fascinating performance as Ada, a mute woman who is forced into an arranged marriage with a New Zealand landowner, played convincingly by Sam Neill, a native Australian actor himself. Ada journeys to New Zealand with her young daughter (Anna Paquin, also an Oscar-winner that year), few other possessions, and her treasured piano, a part of her that amplifies her voice that she cannot express through vocal communication.

I believe it would be wrong to assume that any of the characters are martyrs in this tragic story, nor would it be right to think Sam Neill's character a villain. You may think this is crazy, but I think the piano itself serves as both a good and bad omen for all that are involved. I would relate it to a "Pandora's box" of sorts, a treasure that exposes all the evil and sin in the world, but which also provides hope as well. The piano is Ada's sounding box, a tool that allows her to escape from a world that does not understand her, but that also threatens her moral compass, removing her from marital conventions and forces her to lose herself.

The performances in "The Piano" are particularly good, especially Holly Hunter's. It is interesting to note that all of Hunter's piano playing in the film is actually Hunter herself performing in front of us. You can visually and aurally feel the mood of Hunter's character through the music she plays. We the audience lose ourselves right along with her, lost upon a sea of music. We see why Keitel becomes enamored by her, and why Neill becomes overcome with jealousy and betrayal. Not many films would allow us to enter the emotions of all three main characters, but this film is truly an exception.

Rarely do we witness real beauty captured on film. "The Piano" is such a visually stunning film, it's almost intoxicating how its atmosphere sweeps across the screen. This landscape is equaled by the performances, bringing understanding and mystery to this wonder. Sometimes symbolism of this nature can be distracting to an audience. "The Piano" dares to follow this symbolic path, and hits a bullseye with full emotional force. Rating: Four stars.
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A break with the tragic, the Gothic and the sentimental...
Nazi_Fighter_David24 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Director-screenwriter Jane Campion started at the movies in the early 1980s at the Australian School of Film and Television... She clearly emerged from her cultural heritage to become one of the world's premiere female directors...

Campion's films typically have a treacherous terrain of searing emotional intensity... We recognize ourselves in the ways her characters think and behave... Her work signifies a break with the tragic, the Gothic and the sentimental...

Her exquisite film which won three Academy Awards including one for Campion's screenplay, is not about sex, but about passion...

Jane challenges the viewer on many levels... Her film (literary inspired from 'Wuthering Heights') explores new territory in the delicious handling of female sexuality and pleasure with the ecstasy of a loving relationship...

In one scene Ada, with tears of anger, hits Baines hard across the face, as if she has spoken words of love... With each new breath, with every moment that their eyes remain locked together, the promise of intimacy is confirmed and reconfirmed and detailed... Only their feelings and emotions guide their instincts...

No woman artist had approached sex in such a direct and liberating manner... Campion's scenes shows Baines' face crumpling with the exquisite pain of his pleasure... Ada moving his head to her chest, and Baines struggling through her dress anxious to touch her skin...

Nominated for eight Academy Awards, the film tells the story of Ada, a strong willful 19th-century Scotswoman who hasn't spoken, since she was six years old... Ada has been set up in an arranged marriage to a British emigrant in New Zealand...

The film opens with Ada who is carried to shore on the shoulders of five seamen to meet her husband Stewart, a landowner who is without much emotion or real love... Her large Victorian skirt spreads across the men's arms and backs... On her head a black bonnet... Around her neck her pad and pen...

Campion manages to chose a cast to suit her purpose and style... Ada is not any easy role and Holly Hunter plays her without vanity... Her face is alight with facial expression, sometimes tender, sometimes sad, sometimes humorous, sometimes soft, while her hands and fingers are quick and neat...

Ada speaks through sign-language translated by her young daughter Flora, and through her beloved piano which happens to be the prime source of her expression... She takes great delight in feeling her fingers on her piano's keys... But in the way she eyes the illiterate, uncultured Baines, there is an insolence and lack of respect... We watch her stopping abruptly, indignantly, as he touches her neck...

Harvey Kietel plays the lonely neighbor George Baines, a depressive man who is everything Stewart is not... He has never seen a graceful woman behave with so much abandon... Ada moves to the piano... She wants to touch it, but she is torn by her feelings, wanting it, but not owning it... Baines views Ada totally absorbed in her piano music... He seems satisfied to watch... He finds himself edging irresistibly closer, magnetically drawn to the spectacle...

Baines enjoys her fingers moving on the keys and the small details of motion on her face... Twice he closes his eyes and breathes deeply... He is experiencing a strange sense of appreciation and lust... He feels powerless... He is desperate and romantic... He no longer admires her absorption with the piano... He is jealous of it... His attention finally focuses on her neck as it bends further or closer to the piano... Ada's long white neck proves irresistible... Baines comes across the room, kisses her, and asks: 'Do you know how to bargain, nod if you do. There's a way you can have your piano back.'

Anna Paquin has been proclaimed one of the best child acting roles ever... She gives a subtle and complex performance as the very cute little girl torn between her mother and stepfather... She looks over at the house suddenly aware that the piano playing has stopped suddenly... She investigates the mystery peeping through the various cracks and holes in the loosely built hut... Her venture is one of challenge and curiosity... Her complex portrayal of Flora won her the Best Supporting Actress...

Sam Neill plays the intense, moralistic and very-Victorian husband Alistair Stewart, who never understands his woman's nature... He surveys Baines' hut suspiciously... There are sounds inside which are worrying him... By wondering around the hut, he finds a hole where he can see the two lovers kissing, and undressing... He reels back angry, but just as we might expect him to burst through, he steps up to look again...

Jane Campion creates an unusual film, poetic and lyrical, complimented by a beautiful cinematography of the haunting woods, which by many critics has been named as a masterpiece... She is the first female director to win the Palme d'Or at Cannes...
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A sensual and surprising film
didi-54 March 2004
Jane Campion's Oscar-winning movie follows Ada (played by Holly Hunter), an immigrant to the New Zealand outback and an arranged marriage, who has not spoken for years and lives her life through the sound of her piano. Her husband (played by Sam Neill) is a man without much understanding, who tries to break the connection between his new wife and her piano; in contrast to him is the wild illiterate Baines (played by Harvey Keitel), a tattooed loner, who reaches into Ada's soul and helps her to regain contact with her emotions and ultimately, her voice too. The film is visually compelling, with its muted colours and wide open spaces, and uses the soundtrack by Michael Nyman in such a way so all the elements fit together. Keitel and Hunter give excellent performances within a sensitive and sensual screenplay, while Anna Paquin is impressive as Ada's wise daughter, always watching and always aware. Campion managed to make the story touching, involving, and sexy, and it well deserved the plaudits heaped on it.
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Acting with the face
Hitchcoc9 March 2006
If one wants to see true acting, just watch Hollie Hunter in this film. She does more with her facial expressions than twenty actors can with a thousand words. Her stature, her presence, her determination are so intense. One could feel sorry for her in places. She has been ripped from her world for reasons we cannot fathom. She has been deemed expendable. When she arrives she expects to be treated properly. Anna Paquin as her daughter settles into the new environment and begins to prosper. But it is not without sacrifice. The piano is the symbol of what was left behind. Her affair with the Maori is partly passion, partly payment. We never know how much of each. The performances are stunning across the board and, this time, worthy of Academy Awards.

There are some very sensual scenes and scenes of great danger. There is pain inflicted and selfishness and power. Hollie Hunter rises above it all and makes her way through this quagmire (the rainy muddy jungle in this case), and arises, victorious in her own fashion.
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The music of the heart
lib-49 November 1998
The Piano is an amazing movie- the cinematography stunning- like the piano on the beach and the sinking piano at the end. There is no praise high enough for Holly Hunter's depiction of Ada. Ana Pacquin and Sam O'Neill also shine. And Harvey Keitel- having gone native- by marking his body in the native style- gives a truly sympathetic and daring performance. This movie stays with the viewer long after it is over. At times I actually felt the dampness of the scenery... most of all it explores the regions of the heart- through the innovative music and the body language of Hunter. A film not to be missed by those who appreciate good story and good filmaking. Thanks Jane Campion for this classic.
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the heart asks pleasure first...
Covousier21 September 2006
Can someone explain to me why "The Piano" ain't in the IMDb top 250 and, for example, movies like "Sin City" or "Crash" (!!!!!!!!!!) are????????????? This movie,is,by far, one of the most delicate and intelligent ever; it softly touches you, emotionally AND physically, for the filming and the photography are exceptional. Actors in it are troubling, beautiful and so... beautiful(again,i know)! Holly Hunter, who plays a mute piano goddess and manages with her not enough known acting skills to express more with her eyes,her grace and her tiny hands than 100 Gwyneth paltrows put together!!!(no offense,i much enjoyed Shakespeare in love,but,come on...)Harvey Keitel in this broken-hearted warrior/peasant role is more than touching;love embraces him as it embraces us,viewers. Still, Jane Campion avoids the unfortunately fashionable arrogant and tutorial directors touch (oscar for best movie, Crash?????? where the hell are we??????) and lets the viewer flow on his own in this huge ocean of naked and oh so true feelings and respects the pain and/or the anger (Sam Neil,probably the only role in his carrier that shows his great talent) of her clearly beloved characters.Landscapes,seashores,humid forests,mud,rain: nature, as well as human nature, are captured by Campion's eyes and heart in the most sensitive and unartificial way. And, of course, Michael Nyman's score,which, once heard, becomes a part of you. Yes, definitely, the heart asks pleasure first. So treat your hearts and eyes with this unique and sensual Chef d'oeuvre.
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An original and extraordinary film
victor775422 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Ada, A woman chosen to be mute, travels with her daughter and baby grand piano across the seas from England to an exotic land in New Zealand during the Victorian Era. This woman has been oppressed in her homeland and denied her womanhood. She has been arranged a marriage with a Landowner who is afraid of fleshly desire. She meets an exotic Caucasian male who seduces her into a world she can be herself in. She is able to release her oppression through their passion.

A film of intrigue. Why make such a story? It has a touch of magical realism. Jane Campion creates a mythical world and fills it with the human condition. Holly Hunter plays Ada with a fierce and graceful flowing note and deservedly won her awards. She plays woman's independence.

The Piano is a strange film and very effecting on it's story. The screen emits the mystery of the forest that surrounds and engulfs Ada's spirit.

Haunting and lyrical.
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Quite vivid
moonspinner5531 March 2002
Jane Campion is a director of quiet unease. I was not a big admirer of her "Angel At My Table", which had enormous possibilities but was suffocated under the filmmaker's penchant for what I refer to as 'ugly beauty'. Even the beautiful passages in this film are undermined by either something ghastly, something about to become ghastly, or something borne from ghastliness. A New Zealand woman in the 1800s becomes a mail-order bride for an uninterested working man; she's a self-elected mute and communicates through her wizened little daughter (Oscar-winner Anna Pacquin, a bit over-the-top) and through her passion for playing the piano, which becomes a point of contention in her marriage. Engrossing human drama with a torrid undercurrent of sexuality and violence. Many people I've talked to about this film could not get with it, but perhaps that's the fault of watching movies at home. In the theater, this was a slightly-dazed, rapturous and enveloping brew that held me spellbound until the lights went up. Movies like this don't hold the same spell when butchered up by ads for the CBS comedies. Holly Hunter, Sam Neill and, most especially, Harvey Keitel all do terrific work. Hunter deservedly won a Best Actress Oscar. ***1/2 from ****
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In a word: Stupid
clydefrogg12 December 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Yes, stupid. I can't find a single word that more accurately describes this movie. I was looking forward to seeing it and expected to see a good movie. I do have some spoilers later, so be warned.

There's a woman who refuses to speak, for seemingly no reason at all. I guess so that a movie can be made about it. Stupid. She's forced to leave whatever land she's from because her father has forced her to marry a man who lives in the New Zealand outback, one who she has never met or seen. Stupid.

I guess the biggest problem I had with this movie was that Holly Hunter's character, the heroine, is NOT LIKEABLE! She is cold and unfeeling, and lacks any personality except when she "pours her heart" into her piano. Like that's supposed to be enough to show us any real depth to her personality. But I went with it.

I actually liked Harvey Keitel's character, but I didn't buy his actions. He becomes enamored with the piano and with Hunter's character, again for seemingly no reason. Again, probably so they could make a movie about it. She's cold and unfeeling. She plays a few bars of something or other, and all of the sudden, he's infatuated with her.

Then, in an effort to impress and sweep his new bride off her feet, Sam Neill's character decides to trade Holly's piano to Keitel for some land. Uh, yeah. OK. Like he'd really do that. Like she says in the movie, IT'S HER PIANO! HERS!!! But again, they wouldn't have had a movie unless he did it, so it's OK. So, to get her piano back, Keitel, who uses the piano as an aphrodisiac for some reason, agrees to trade her keys for "favors", which are initially just weird, then turn sexual in nature. Again, it doesn't make much sense, but I went with it.

Then, Neil's character finds out and gets insanely jealous and angry. Why? Holly had given him NOTHING. She has NO PERSONALITY. What is there to be jealous of? Throw her out and forget it. Why does he even care? I can't believe that he loves her, or even LIKES her. Stupid. Then, when she tries to contact Keitel again and Neil finds out, what does he do? He CUTS HER FINGER OFF. Actually, he CHOPS IT OFF WITH AN AXE. This is where the movie reached a new plateau of stupid and ridiculous. So much so, that I laughed out loud when he chopped off her digit.

Neil then has a remarkable change of heart about the whole thing, again for seemingly no reason, and allows Holly to leave with Keitel. On the boat ride out, Holly decides she doesn't want the Piano anymore and orders it thrown into the sea. Now, I understand what's happening here. She's found love and doesn't feel she needs the piano to express herself anymore. That's fine, but she still loves the piano. She loves to play it, and she loves that one in particular. So she just wants to throw it overboard? Again, it's utterly stupid, but I guess they couldn't express the metaphor any other way. However, the stupidity of throwing the piano overboard just to express that metaphor pales in comparison to the stupidity of what happens as the piano goes over.

Holly's foot gets caught in the rope tying that's tied to the piano, and she gets dragged down towards the sea floor along with the piano. Wow, what are the odds. And I knew it was going to happen before they even shoved the piano over. Again, it was done only because they needed to have a metaphor of Holly truly "escaping" the piano, which is what she miraculously does underwater.

Finally, the movie comes to a merciful end with a COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY "they lived happily ever after" scene. This scene is unnecessary whether you liked the movie and bought what it was selling or not.

It's really disappointing to me that this type of high class drivel is made. It's even more disappointing that this drivel is so highly praised. The only thing redeeming about this movie is the performance of Anna Paquin, who is adorable as Holly's daughter. Unfortunately, her performance is tainted because her only real purpose in the movie is to serve as a translator when writing and sign language might slow a scene down too much. I also expected a great score, but thought it was extremely mediocre. Any actor could have learned to play what was in the movie in a matter of weeks.

STUPID. Grade: D-
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One of the worst movies I've ever seen!
lotus_chief26 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers

Wow. To think that The Piano was nominated for 8 Oscars in '94 and won 3 (2 of them big ones) I expected so much more from this movie. Quite frankly, this is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Holly Hunter won a Best Actress Oscar for this role? WHY?? She didn't say a word throughout the entire film (except for voice overs at the beginning and end), and does nothing but look sad and withdrawn the whole time. The first thing I did after seeing this was look at the list of nominees/winners in '94, and saw who SHOULD HAVE won the Best Actress Oscar that year….Angela Bassett!! Anna Paquin won Best Supporting Actress.... why? She was good but not THAT good. Campion winning for Best Screenplay? The ‘script' was horrible! It must've been a pretty bad year in Hollywood for this trash to be nominated for so many awards and win 2 big ones. In no way do I live & swear by ‘popcorn movies', but this was just dreadful. Anyway, onto the ‘film'.

I now know Jane Campion's M.O. After seeing the AWFUL ‘In The Cut' last year, The Piano surprisingly has the same inadequacies & fetishes as 'In The Cut' did. It gives NOTHING of a story; nothing is developed...we're just thrown into these weird occurrences and frankly don't give a damn about anyone. A mute girl is arranged to marry some guy who lives in the woods somewhere, wants nothing to do with him, is forced to teach his friend, George Baines the piano, who is a perverted sicko (Keitel).... after numerous crude passes and sexual harassment by George, suddenly the feeling is mutual for her, her ‘husband' (Sam Neill) finds out about the affair, cuts off one of her fingers, then finally allows her to leave with George his former friend, who takes care of her. This is the ‘plot'. From here, now we're supposed to read into the ‘oh-so-subtle' images that the piano is her ‘voice' (pretty obvious) and, from reading other people's reviews, she's exploring; taking control of, if you will, her sexual qualities due to the suppression of them by society at this time (19th century). Well, I'm sorry, but I did not get that from the movie. Tell me: how was she in control? She's forced to teach George piano lessons, who only uses these ‘sessions' as an opportunity to fondle, flirt and grope her every chance he gets. From the looks of things, she's not at all happy with what's happening. But she does them only to ‘buy' her piano back, which she loves so dearly and is ‘her voice' (I got that). But it's George that's in control there. The husband? I don't know what his story was, because he was the most neglectful spouse he could've possibly been. What was he supposed to do, rape her? It was obvious she didn't want him. So, she doesn't like her husband, wants nothing to do with him, and then suddenly falls for George, who was only degrading & offensive to her the whole time? How did that happen? WHEN did that happen? He shows her a little guilt and she switches her feelings? Was it that easy??? There was NO evidence of her EVER enjoying what he was doing....but then all of a sudden she's in love with him?? SPARE ME!! Meanwhile the husband sees her committing adultery when it first happens, but doesn't do/say anything until Flora, her DAUGHTER of all people (Anna Paquin) rats on her to him (when Ada goes back to George after being told to stay away). WHY did Flora do this? See, this is where we needed to see previous evidence of animosity by the daughter towards her mother (enough at least to warrant this)...but there's nothing of the sort. I guess Campion wants us to just write this off as pure ignorance/innocence by Flora, always wanting to do right even if it means getting her own mother in trouble. Give me a break....that act definitely looked malicious to me. But again, why was this the case when she was truly Ada's only real companion...her DAUGHTER for crying out loud!?!?! Anyway he finally grows some 'cojones' and punishes her by cutting off one of her fingers with an axe...he must be really good with an axe to only cut off one finger! LOL please! It's here in which we get a really bad acting job by Holly Hunter. I understand she can't scream but come on! Simply kneeling down on the ground just didn't convince me...I thought she was Supergirl for a second there, she didn't even wince! Her whole performance was emotionless and dry....I felt NOTHING for her. The only time I sat up in my seat was when she apparently tries to drown herself; I was practically laughing thinking to myself, ‘yea, kill yourself so this trash could end'. At NO POINT in the film did I feel she was in control of things, except her lame & minimal attempts at showing affection to her husband by rubbing his body, in which he then trusted her again not to see George and remove the barricades from the windows. Some control she had with her hand was on the chopping block!

I've seen a pattern with Jane Campion. She just throws things together and puts you in a place with no background or character/story development (we hardly know where they are!!!), tries to make it artsy and throws a woman in there to try and make a point about her sexuality and sexual self-realization…..that's probably her own stance on the issue. If that's what The Piano was about, I shouldn't have to ASSUME it. That's the main problem with this movie; it doesn't give the audience anything to take in and appreciate. It doesn't present anything… only throws them into a situation, a weird & somewhat illogical one at that, and expects them to buy into it. I'm sorry, but I have to know where she's from, WHERE SHE IS, why/how she became, either by choice or not, mute (its very hard to believe the daughter's story), what her past relationships with men were like, why she didn't like her assigned husband, why/how/when she falls in love with the sadistic George, why her daughter (her only confidant) rats on her to her ‘husband', etc etc. The story is extremely weak and fails to explain anything. One would probably say a film like Memento was ‘artsy' too, but at least Christopher Nolan gave us something of a STORY there. The fact that this was praised and rewarded as much as it was is a travesty in my opinion. This was one big waste of time that I will only remember as one of the worst movies I've ever seen….it offers absolutely NOTHING! And that's the grade I give it...

ZERO out of **** stars.
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Is there something I'm not getting?
leewatts114 December 2008
A vaguely pornographic account of a love triangle between three completely repellent people. The woman hasn't spoken in years, but is absolutely obsessed with her piano, seeming to care more about it than about any living person. Her emotions are expressed in either childish outbursts or soft caresses, depending on what point the filmmakers want to make. The husband himself is clearly SUPPOSED to be repellent. We know this because he combs his hair, because he doesn't hold much stock in Aboriginal superstition, and because . . . well, I don't know, just because the movie needs an annoying white guy so it can argue that it's bad to discriminate against people. The love interest, meanwhile, is downright creepy, lying under the piano and looking up the woman's skirt, but he's apparently supposed to be cool and dashing. And don't get me started on the Aborigines, at once held up as trophies of natural living and made "exotic" in a manner that mostly involves making them seem stupid. I confess I cannot figure out what anyone could have liked about this film.
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I have to disagree
Doug-9631 January 1999
All of my friends think this is a great film, but I find it to be one of the most over-rated films of the 1990's.

'The Piano' is completely lacking in subtlety -- normally a quality a filmmaker wants in a film that is attempting (in this case, committing) symbolism. It hits the audience over the head with its 'meaning'.

And what does it mean? That a man wins a woman's love by treating her horribly and exploiting her mercilessly? That's exactly what happens in this film. Furthermore, Ada is a thoroughly inscrutable and unlikeable character.

I cheered when she was almost drowned, too bad she was rescued . . but even the beautiful cinematography and good cast can't rescue this over-wrought and over-rated film.

Also: did anyone notice that Baines is repeatedly depicted as uneducated and illiterate, but yet Ada writes to him (on a piano key of all things). And the annoying music Ada plays on the piano (and we hear over and over on the soundtrack) is out of place in a film set in the nineteenth century.
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The worst...
livenkind15 November 2001
I'm not a blockbuster kind of viewer, I spend a fair amount of time in art cinemas watching stuff that your average Hollywood lover would find unfathomable. Having said that, I've just got to say that this was one of the worst films I've ever seen. A waste of 3 fine actors (Hunter, keitel, Neill), a waste of some beautiful locations, and an object lesson in how not to end a film. The child actress was quite obviously out of her depth (an Oscar? Why?), the Nyman theme was done to death, and the story sagged and bagged and fell apart from start to finish. The Sign Language (which I speak fluently) was all over the place (before you say "yeah but this was 100 years ago", I've studied the history of Sign language too and belive me, it was a mess). I've never been so disappointed in my life!
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Clunky symbolism - symbolising nothing
rpowell-428 October 2006
Over a decade has passed since I saw this little stinker in Tokyo and I still resent the time I wasted on it, but not as much as I resent the praise with which it has been garlanded.

It's dreadful. The Piano is rescued from a shipwreck, in perfect tune, and Holly Hunter plays Michael Nyman numbers on it. She can't be bothered to talk for some reason. She inspects Harvey Keitel's bottom. Some Maori girls appear in Victorian costume to show how oppressive the colonisers were. That's most of what I remember and it's too much. It's presumably meant to mean something but it fails. The landscapes were nice, though.

All in all, a model of all that is worst about art cinema and an argument for going to see blockbusters or reading a book or tapping out some hymns on a tinny piano, which is what the Holly Hunter character would have played had this film attempted to connect with reality on any level.
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Powerful communication without words.
csac6590astrid7 January 2004
"The Piano", directed by Jane Campion, is a haunting film about love, passion, betrayal and refusal set in the 19th century. Ada (Holly Hunter), sent to New Zealand on an arranged marriage, arrives with her daughter Flora (Anna Paquin) and her precious piano on a stormy gray beach. Her husband Stewart (Sam Neill) leaves her beloved piano on the beach after having decided that it is too heavy to transport it inland. He does not recognize what this means to the mute Ada, who expresses her emotions with the "voice" of her piano. Baines (Harvey Keitel), who has taken on Maori ways, is deeply moved by Ada and her "voice". He gives Stewart a piece of land in exchange for the piano and offers Ada a deal to earn it back.

Repulsed by Baines' crude appearance, Ada reluctantly accepts the deal to play the piano in his hut while he does "things". Submerged erotic desires and passion slowly set free between the unlikely pair during the piano sessions. Both Baines and Stewart become obsessed by Ada's powerful, intensely suggestive form of unuttered communication. Completely bewildered, Stewart asks Baines if had ever heard Ada speak a single word to him, claiming that he could hear her voice in his mind.

The breathtaking, beautiful imagery as well as its stirring music (Michael Nyman) contribute to the romantic, mystifying atmosphere of the film. "The Piano" won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and Oscars for Best Actress (Holly Hunt), Best Supporting Actress (Anna Paquin), and Campion's screenplay. Holly Hunter's outstanding performance conveys impressively a woman's ability to express herself without words. "The Piano" is one of the best films I have seen so far.
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Depressing and Dismal
mail-279231 May 2014

I don't mind slow movies. I don't even mind ones with an inconsequential plot. Like the one about the old guy riding across two states to see his dying brother on a lawnmower. The old guy's on the mower, not the dying brother. But I could believe it. In it, even.

Not this. The 'wealthy landowner' lives in a shoddy timber house in a settlement in the muddiest part of the dankest, jungliest bit of New Zealand and does nothing constructive except chop the odd bit of firewood. He should have stayed in Hampshire and farmed or in Wolverhampton and made chains but nope.

This must be a jolly good piano for despite being left on a stormy beach below the high tide level, it doesn't suffer much. And they leave it there. No case of, "If we have to leave it, why don't we move it up the beach a bit where it's dry?" And later it's hauled through the jungle and tipped over into the mud, but - well, well - all it needs is a wee bit of tuning.

The Ada character is about the most sexually unappetising specimen of femininity imaginable. Not only does she not speak, but she doesn't smile, acknowledge other people or exhibit any of the social graces considered mandatory by any Victorian. When she plays the piano, she plays tedious music in a style that never, ever, ever varies throughout the whole movie until you wish that her new husband would take the damned piano and use it for firewood. Not only that but it is contemporary music. Late 20th century contemporary, that is. It's cheap, tinkly-tinkly-tinkly with the left hand and plink-plonk-plink with the right. 'On-hold' music, really. Clearly, she's too advanced for a bit of Mozart, Handel, Bach or even maybe a bit of Scarlatti.

She sells herself implausibly cheap to the rough guy. The husband under-reacts initially then overreacts. What's that all about then? Why does her beloved daughter who's so devoted to her mother dob her in - twice!? Is the kid really that stoopid?

Weather! Nowhere - except possibly parts of Wales - could sustain rainfall like this. Remember The Ghostwriter? Just dull overcast all the way through. This has rain, rain and more rain. Is this suppose to add significance? It doesn't.

This movie is emperor's new clothes. I think the only reason it was a critical hit was because nobody had the nerve to point out the truth. Perhaps it won because it had a couple of soft-core moments. Some ladies' naughty bits and a flash of man-sausage. And a bit of writhing.

Don't be fooled. This movie really, really is utter rubbish. It's pointless, vacuous, joyless and meaningless. Did I mention boring? You will come out of the theatre less than you went in. Only if you are of a preternaturally credulous turn of mind will you believe in this tripe.
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Agonizing art-house drivel
refrankfurt13 January 2008
If D. H. Lawrence had been on a bad acid trip while writing "Lady Chatterley's Lover," it might have wound up resembling this film. Enough has already been written about the uniformly unlikeable characters, the incoherent plot, the rain-soaked, depressing cinematography, and the odious, anachronistic piano music that supposedly pours forth from the depths of the character's glaciated soul. All very symbolic, no doubt. Perfect fodder for the cappuccino-sipping, more-snottily-intellectual-than-thou yuppies that patronize such establishments. But did anyone notice how often the camera kept focusing specifically on people's ugly naked butts? With the exception of the little girl, just about everyone in this movie dropped their breeches and flashed their unclothed posteriors at the camera at some point. Possibly this is symbolic of some sort of bizarre anal fetish on the part of the director, but in the end, I felt as though I had been mooned by the entire adult cast of this film. And maybe that was really all the point it had.

Thankfully I didn't pay anything to see this trash. (My wife checked it out from the local public library.) So how come I still feel like I've been ripped off?
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tjpmkp5 October 2000
This film is a hideous piece of pretentious garbage. Nothing about this film is entertaining, and I am baffled how no one seems to notice that this films celebrates sexual harrassment. The Holly Hunter character is forced to "service" Harvey Kietel's character and then she begins to like it. Is that "art"? I find this film totally offensive. It's even worse than The English Patient, if that's possible.
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Hopefully the nadir of antipodean film
RobbieP-27 August 2000
The Piano is the prime, shining example of how a film may win great critical acclaim by combining a politically correct theme with an esoteric subject matter, despite having almost no other redeeming features. With the single exception of the rather beautiful (and genuinely allegorical) opening image of the Piano itself, sitting incongruously on a New Zealand beach, the film has nothing new, challenging or remotely entertaining (heaven forbid!) to offer. Holly Hunter's heroine's silence is a ludicrously contrived conceit, presumedly invented by Campion to force down her unfortunate audience's throats the notion that the most eloquent form of communication in this film is through music; I think we could have worked that out without it being so unsubtly pinpointed. As for the actual plot - well, it creaks and groans with so many improbabilities, anachronisms and eye-rollingly obvious symbolic gestures that this viewer was left puzzling, mouth agape, that even the most sympathetic critic could consider it anything better than embarrassing. I know it won universal acclaim at the time and remains a favourite for many, but the reasons remain entirely beyond me. It deserves 1 point for the image mentioned above, but no more.
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If Leonard Cohen made a movie - this would be it.
jd11025 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I found this to be one of the gloomiest, darkest, most depressing movies I have ever seen in a theatre.

Reasons why I hated this film:

1.The basic plot stems from the "all men are bastards" school of gender debate. 2.Holly Hunter's vastly over-rated performance. Since when did scowling and glaring constitute award winning acting technique? On the other hand, her accent was much better than Harvey's :-) basic advice for actors, if you can't do accents, don't, not everyone has Streep's ear and facility. 3. Dark, oppressive lighting and setting.

4. Nyman's score - if possible, even more over-rated than Hunter's performance.

Reasons why I like the film: 1.There were some beautifully filmed underwater shots.

2. It did, finally come to an end.

Overall reaction: If you want to make time stand still, this is the film for you, Einstien was right!!!
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A waste of film
jsroth25 July 2001
Absolutely the worst film I have ever seen. The acting is decent enough, but it is wasted on an incredibly stupid script. I found it dark, dreary, unrealistic and slow. Did I mention that it was SLOW? The characters are unbelievable, the story is unbelievable, and the movie is just unbelievably bad. The entire film should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Some would call it an artistic masterpiece, but I just don't see it. I prefer a little bit of rhyme and reason in my poetry.
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I wouldn't recommend this to anyone under 105 years of age with a good sense of sight and hearing.
Caty-326 April 1999
I feel like a certain famous comedian when I say, "...take the setting, characters, and plot...PLEASE!!

The setting takes place in one of the more beautiful spots in the world - New Zealand, but who could see it through all the backwoods trees, rain, and thick, yucky knee-deep mud they tromped around in throughout the movie.

The characters were developed before we even sat down so we were left in the dark as to who they really were and why. We didn't see an evolvement of any of them. They seemed disjointed in personality and very anemic.

For example, we see Stewart (Sam Neill), carefully taking a comb to his hair prior to meeting, for the first time, his new bride. This shows an element of care and tenderness to please her. Just because of his very practical decision to leave the piano behind on the beach because it was too much for his men to carry doesn't make him a bully. Her obsession with a piano was not something he fully understood just then. Then, as the story progresses, he turns into a "Peeping Tom" and a few scenes later, performs a very shocking and brutal act that was very unbecoming of what we knew him to be at first.

Ada (Holly Hunter) is a rigid, cold-hearted, selfish, unbecoming bride who only knows how to stomp her feet when she doesn't get her way and sell her body for her real true love, the piano. And how did she become mute? She never could say.

As for the third member of the bizarre triangle, Baines (Harvey Keitel), neighbor to the newly-weds, and a native tribesman would-be-but-not-quite, is an uncouth, ego-centric male who encourages Ada to prostitute herself out to him in return for her piano, key by key, of course. But she holds her ground by indicating silently, "only the black keys". ...What a bargain! A few scenes later we see him asking her to leave when she comes of her own volition because he only wants her to be with him if she truly cares. Since when did he become so concerned for her feelings??

I couldn't decide whether the scene depicting his school-boy interest in the hole in her black stocking that bore a dime-size portion of her stark-white bare leg was more comical or just plain ridiculous.

Flora (Ann Paquin), seemed to take after her mother's disgraceful behavior with her bratty, selfish manifestations. Seeing far more through the cracks in Baine's hut than she should have, this little girl didn't have much of a role model in her mother.

The plot...anything said here may give too much away...that's how little there was to it.

The only real depth to this movie was in the ocean, as the most colorful character in the story, the Piano, took it's final plunge (in what seemed more like a suicide after all it had been through) to it's watery grave where it could finally have some peace. ...Now where are those rotten tomatoes?
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