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The Essentials: An Angel at My Table (1990)

Janet Frame was a brilliant child who, as a teen, was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. Explore Janet's discovery of the world and her life in Europe as her books are published to acclaim. (R, 158 min.)


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

7:00 PM

This monthly series showcases essential films everyone should see on the big screen.
The Essentials series is Free for Members.

With An Angel at My Table, Academy Award–winning filmmaker Jane Campion brings to the screen the harrowing true-life story of Janet Frame, New Zealand’s most distinguished author. The film follows Frame along her inspiring journey, from a poverty-stricken childhood to a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia and electroshock therapy to, finally, international literary fame. Beautifully capturing the color and power of the New Zealand landscape, the film earned Campion a sweep of her country’s film awards and the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. [Janus]

Starring: Kerry Fox, Alexia Keogh, Karen Fergusson
Director: Jane Campion
Genre(s): Biography, Drama

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"Angel's clear-headedness and unadorned filmmaking makes it all the more powerful."

— Alyx Vesey, Bitch Media

"This is filmmaking at the very peak of the medium`s potential."

— Dave Kehr, Chicago Tribune

"A potentially painful and harrowing film is imbued with gentle humor and great compassion, which makes every character come vividly alive."

— Staff, Variety

"The poetic empathy, the beautiful, offbeat framing and unexpected transitions, and the magnificent handling of actors are all pure Campion."

— Jonathan Rosenbaum, The Reader

"Campion's grasp of her material is intellectually and emotionally assured, while Fox's extraordinary performance demonstrates an honesty, courage and power that's rarely attempted, let alone achieved."

— David Parkinson, Empire

"Jane Campion's An Angel at My Table tells [Janet Frame's] story in a way that I found strangely engrossing from beginning to end. This is not a hyped-up biopic or a soap opera, but simply the record of a life as lived."

— Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"Jane Campion has established a reputation for making slightly off-center films in which regular folks get glimpses of the darkness that lurks beneath the surfaces of their lives. An admirer of Frame's novels since she was a teenager, Campion builds her film around a heroine who defies Hollywood conventions"

— Staff, TV Guide Magazine

"There are none of the usual artist-biopic clichés here. Frame, as embodied by three uncannily-matched actresses, is bright but intensely, awkwardly passive, and inhabits a chaotic, arbitrary universe. Watching her hard, slow struggle for self-respect, happiness and peace becomes a profoundly moving, strangely affirmative experience."

— Staff, Time Out

"I feel that when I watch this movie I am participating in storytelling, in the building of the film. It emanates this feeling of somebody being there and just saying, 'I want to tell you a story,' and the way you’re guided through draws you in—through the colors, the actors—in a way that is so enjoyable it’s almost as if you’re in water and just let yourself be carried by the flow."

— Alice Rohrwacher, Criterion

"This is not only a great film by a great director – of course, there could never be any doubt about that – but for the first time I felt here was a film that could only have been made by a woman, this woman. And not only as a filmmaker but woman as a whole, brave, brave as a human can be. This is not a film about a brave woman's tormented heroic destiny... No, it has something deeper, more urgent to declare about films and women. This film changed my life as a woman, not simply as a filmmaker."

— Claire Denis, Sight and Soun