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February 1994


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Otto Kitsinger <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 24 Feb 1994 04:17:11 EST
text/plain (59 lines)
Concerning Chris White's lengthy post "The Piano" on Wed Feb 23 15:58:20 1994
and Dennis Ross' reply on Wed Feb 23 17:05:03 1994:
First, Chris, I wish to thank you for an intelligent and thought out reply
(and the first to mention the characters' names!) to my post -- refreshing
after receiving several pieces of nasty email saying flat out that I must be
some sort of ogre.  Let me mention here that I'm disappointed in those who
stoop to personal attacks because my views on a film are radically different
from theirs.
I understand your point, Chris, but I don't think I misinterpreted Campion's
intentions at all.  I know what she INTENDED.  But in my opinion it didn't
even remotely play correctly on the screen.
You say that Baines taking the piano shows him as a different kind of man?
Different how?  I saw it as decidedly manipulative.  I didn't see the mutual
attraction you saw when she arrived at his cabin.  The piano was her concern,
and remained so for quite some time.  She was very clearly not happy about
the arrangements at first.
I will concede the possiblity that in the end (which was awful, that
tacked-on happy face ending of the tacked-on finger) the two felt real love
for each other, although I won't pretend to understand why.  Perhaps my urban
'90s mind has trouble connecting with a time so (relatively) simple as the
world of this film.  It's the whole route there that left a bad taste in my
mouth.  On Baines' side, perhaps it's mental typecasting on my part -- any
character Keitel would play must have intentions that are far from completely
honorable.  But I do think there's some obvious elements of a deceptive
character -- he quite clearly wants Aida, and goes about coercing her into
sex.  Yes, it was coerced -- think about it.  All she had in the world was
her voice (the piano) and her daughter.  Her freedom was taken away when she
was married off, and what dignity she had left came through the music she
played.  I don't believe she entered into the situation looking for love, but
looking for her voice back.  If she was that physically repressed and hadn't
been intimate with someone since her daughter was born, as Dennis suggests,
then I can't imagine how she would pick Baines as her release.
When it comes right down to it, Baines stole her voice and demanded sexual
touching as ransom.  For Aida to have made sense to me, she should have
reacted either completely as though she was interested in Baines despite her
being married and all, or completely repulsed at the thought.  I never saw
any reason on screen for her to have changed over from the second one to the
first, yet she did anyway.  To me, that was equivalent to condoning forceable
sex.  I have yet to have anyone explain to me in plain simple terms WHY she
would like Baines at ALL.
I live and work in Hollywood and I know a small number of people who agree
with me, that there was no reason given for Aida liking Baines, thus causing
the film to fall apart.  I know a much larger number who didn't get it but
weren't sure why, but keep their mouth shut because it's so widely acclaimed.
 What they fail to recognize is the film is widely acclaimed because instead
of the boring 1+1 formula Hollywood displays "fresh" nearly every Friday,
"The Piano" is a beautiful and elegant-looking higher-level equation.  The
problem is, the equation doesn't add up, leaving a beautiful collapsed house
of cards.
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