Those lucky enough to have seen Jane Campion’s eccentric and engaging shorts (such as Passionless Moments and A Girl’s Own Story) have reason enough to expect her first feature to be a breakthrough for the Australian cinema. But nothing quite prepares one for the astonishing freshness and sheer weirdness of this black comedy about two sisters (Genevieve Lemon and Karen Colston) locked into a deadly struggle. Practically every shot is unorthodox, unexpected, and poetically right, and the swerves of the plot are simultaneously smooth, logical, and so bizarre you’ll probably wind up pondering them days later. Some critics have compared Campion to David Lynch, but apart from a similar taste for the offbeat and a flair for painterly composition, she’s too good and original to be passed off as secondhand–and it’s worth adding that her acute grasp of character and a family’s psychological dynamics is well beyond Lynch’s range. The mad behavior of both sisters may make you squirm, and there are plenty of other things in this picture–including the other characters–to make you feel unbalanced, but Campion does so many beautiful, funny, and unexpected things with our disquiet that you’re likely to come out of this movie seeing the world quite differently than you did before. In short, this is definitely not to be missed. With Tom Lycos, Jon Darling, Dorothy Barry, and Michael Lake (1989). (Fine Arts)

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