Two Friends

Technically, this low-budget, 16-millimeter television film (1986, 76 min.) qualifies as Jane Campion’s first feature, though she didn’t write itthe script is by Australian Helen Garner, who also worked with Gillian Armstrong on The Last Days of Chez Nous. The mise en scene, though clearly Campion-esque in certain stretches of oddball inventiveness, is still some distance from the splendors of Sweetie, An Angel at My Table, and The Piano. Like Kaufman and Hart’s play Merrily We Roll Along and Pinter’s Betrayal, the story proceeds in reverse chronology, starting with the death of a teenage dropout (Kris Bidenko) from a drug overdose, then working through the previous year, with particular emphasis on a friendship with a classmate (Emma Coles). (Part of the point is how similar these friends were when they started school together.) Campion’s work with actors yields plenty of rewards, and the structure is certainly interesting, though one also feels at times that Campion and Garner have bitten off a little more than they can chew. (JR)

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