New Zealand film director Jane Campion is one of a kind. Forget money and fame; she's inspired by the pleasure of sharing her cinematic dreams with friends and film audiences. Her globetrotting heroines (in such films as Angel at My Table
, The Piano
, The Portrait of a Lady
) may be wilful, crazed, self-absorbed, wrong--but who can resist joining these passionate women on their voyages of self-discovery, whether they lead to safe harbour or a dead end?
Holy Smoke opens deliriously in a magical India, saturated with light, colour, sensuality. Celebrated by Neil Diamond's opening anthem, "Holly Holy", Ruth Baron (Kate Winslet, delivering a breathtakingly luminous performance) explores a world that encourages spiritual epiphany--and falls hard for the cartoonish guru who opens her "third eye". Back home in Australia, her hilariously dysfunctional, distinctly down-to-earth family hires hotshot deprogrammer PJ Waters (Harvey Keitel, his dyed hair and cowboy boots telegraphing desperate machismo) to cure Ruth. In an isolated Outback shack, the two of them wrestle each other for control of their souls--and bodies, too. This duel's in deadly earnest: Ruth assaults Waters's petrified masculinity; PJ aims to strip this radiant girl of her unexamined faith.
Their wild ride--funny, brutal, erotic--towards brand-new selfhood is punctuated by indelible images: Ruth dancing in a white sari beside an emu corral; naked in the night, Ruth offering her lush body to her tormentor; lost in the desert, cross-dressed in red gown, PJ "saved" by a golden vision of Ruth as a magnificent Indian goddess. For those who love the way movies can sometimes project truth and beauty, Holy Smoke is a feast for the eyes and mind. --Kathleen Murphy, Amazon.com
On the DVD: Holy Smoke sees good overall quality of the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer, with the graininess coming from the film rather than the transfer. The soundtrack (which is mostly populated with Neil Diamond tracks) is rich, but what really raises this DVD above mediocrity though (and it had to be something seeing as it is woefully short of extras) is the commentary track. Winslet and cowriter Anna Campion (Jane's sister) are given free reign to talk about their experiences of filming Holy Smoke as well as their thoughts on India, cults and nudity. The result is always interesting, often entertaining and fans of Winslet will fall in love with the graceful star all over again. --Kristen Bowditch
After young middle-class Australian Ruth Barron (Kate Winslet) joins a cult in India, her well-intentioned family call upon exit counsellor P.J. Waters (Harvey Keitel) for help in getting her back. Waters is convinced that the job will take no longer than three days of intense counselling in the outback, yet he soon finds himself falling for his client, who uses her sexuality to reverse the counsellor/client relationship and claim some power for herself. Written and directed by Jane Campion ('The Piano', 'Portrait of a Lady').