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Two Friends

Image // Unrated // February 12, 2002
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 9, 2002 | E-mail the Author
Writer/director Jane Campion is best known for The Piano, the 1993 film that garnered, among numerous other nods, a stunning total of eight Oscar nominations and brought home three statuettes. There are those who have suggested that Campion's career has taken somewhat of a downturn since then, with the comparatively poor reception of her follow-up, The Portrait Of A Lady, and her second collaboration with Harvey Keitel, Holy Smoke. Regardless of what some may say about her output as of late, there's no denying the power and talent so evident in the first decade or so of her film career. Her first short, An Exercise In Discipline, and the feature film Sweetie both garnered Golden Palms at Cannes. Campion also won an award for 'Best Screenplay' from the Australian Film Institute for Sweetie, and the film was nominated for four others. An Angel At My Table, a film about author Janet Frame, picked up an International Spirit Award for 'best foreign film', an International Critics' Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and two awards at the Venice Film Festival. Two Friends, Campion's feature-length debut, offers an excellent introduction to the talented filmmaker's work, and it is now seeing release on DVD courtesy of Milestone Films and Image Entertainment.

Two Friends examines the dissolution of a lifelong friendship between a pair of teenage girls, Kelly and Louise (Kris Bidenko and Emma Coles). The journey is examined in a linear fashion, though in reverse. As we're introduced, their relationship has already splintered, though with each passing month, they are shown as being closer and closer to one another. Kelly and Louise's paths fork when their intentions of attending an upscale girls' school together are dashed by Kelly's stepfather, who doesn't much care for the institution's elitist aesthetic, despite the fact that she did manage to meet its substantial entry requirements. His decision, made at the eleventh hour, inspires rebellion in young Kelly, and she quickly devolves into the sort of bad influence that most parents dread. Louise marches on, disappointed but undaunted, and attends the school without her friend. That marks the beginning of the end, and a number of other minor events continue to chip away at their friendship until it's little more than a pile of rubble.

Admittedly, that plot summary might not sound wildly enthralling, and I'm sure much of that can be attributed to my all-encompassing inability to write. The rest, though, is because Two Friends is about the journey, not the destination. We're already fully aware from the film's opening moments that Kelly and Louise are no longer close friends. The question is, what caused things to get to that point? The film examines the minutiae of their relationship, such as a visit to the beach, or Louis mouthing off at her mother in one of those childish attempts to impress her friend, lengthy chats on the phone, Kelly's ill-fated attempt to spend the night at her father's pad, shopping for a school uniform, general family discord... In striking contrast with this very realistic examination (at least, I'm assuming it's realistic; at no point in the past 23 years have I been a teenaged girl, I'm afraid) is a truly nutty visual representation of a letter penned by Kelly. I couldn't help but smile, and that's not just because it's sped up to the sort of ridiculous levels unseen outside of the 1980s. It shows how truly childishly naïve Kelly is and how exaggerated the worldview of a girl in her mid-teens can be. As a rule, I make every possible attempt to steer clear of dramas. Two Friends thankfully somehow managed to sneak through, and I'm glad to have it as part of my collection.

Video: Though Two Friends is a telefilm, Campion apparently framed so that it could play theatrically at 1.66:1. It is at that aspect ratio that Two Friends is presented on DVD, enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The film is rather grainy, even for a sixteen-year-old 16mm production. Factoring its age and likely exceedingly low budget into account, this may indeed be representative of how Two Friends originally appeared upon its debut in 1986, or, at worst, representative of the best available elements. The print used apparently hasn't been subjected to considerable wear over the years. No damage is visible, and speckling and the like are present though not to the point of distraction. This is not demo material by any means, but a decent presentation nonetheless, and it's good to see another example of a studio supporting anamorphic enhancement for 1.66:1 titles.

Audio: The mono soundtrack has some minor, underlying hiss throughout, as well as some issues stemming from the film's production. The accents are on this side of heavy, which isn't helped by certain elements of the track overpowering the dialogue. For instance, Louise plays the piano at one point, rendering Kelly's simultaneous voiceover completely indiscernible. Another instance would be during a spat Kelly has with her stepfather. He quickly rises out of his chair at the kitchen table, but the screeching of the wood against linoleum is far too loud in comparison to the volume of his dialogue. English subtitles, thankfully, are present and should alleviate any such problems. Without a point of comparison, it's difficult to gauge the overall quality, but I feel comfortable in assuming that Two Friends sounds as good as it is likely ever will.

Supplements: The most welcome feature is an early shot by Jane Campion, the George Mallory-themed Mishaps Of Seduction And Conquest. A brief, automated still gallery and a DVD-ROM-accessible EPK round out the supplements.

Conclusion: Jane Campion's talent as a storyteller is evident even in this early effort. Though a film about the friendship of two teenage girls is not generally what I'd consider to be my cup of tea, the way in which the story unveils is inventive and surprisingly captivating. Two Friends is most highly recommended to those with an intimate familiarity with Campion's body of work, though it's well-worth at least a rental to those with a more casual acquaintance with her films.
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