A.O. Scott is smitten with Abbie Cornish in Jane Campion’s Bright Star.
The movie really belongs to Brawne, played with mesmerizing vitality and heart-stopping grace by Abbie Cornish… Ms. Cornish, an Australian actress whose previous films include ‚ÄúStop-Loss,‚Äù ‚ÄúCandy‚Äù and ‚ÄúSomersault,‚Äù has, at 27, achieved a mixture of unguardedness and self-control matched by few actresses of any age or nationality. She‚Äôs as good as Kate Winslet, which is about as good as it‚Äôs possible to be.
And on to the aspect that earns the title of the article, “…an Ode to Hot English Chastity.”
Ms. Campion is one of modern cinema‚Äôs great explorers of female sexuality, illuminating Sigmund Freud‚Äôs ‚Äúdark continent‚Äù with skepticism, sympathy and occasional indignation. ‚ÄúBright Star‚Äù could easily have become a dark, simple fable of repression, since modern audiences like nothing better than to be assured that our social order is freer and more enlightened than any that came before. But Fanny and Keats are modern too, and though the mores of their time constrain them, they nonetheless regard themselves as free…
That Fanny and Keats must sublimate their longings in letters, poems and conversations seems cruel, but they make the best of it. As does Ms. Campion: a sequence in which, fully clothed, the couple trades stanzas of ‚ÄúLa Belle Dame Sans Merci‚Äù in a half-darkened bedroom must surely count as one of the hottest sex scenes in recent cinema.
(thanks to sartre for sending the link last night, and to j and Diane for reminding us this morning.)
For a live-action illustration of the still above, check out the clip after the cut (via Living in Cinema).