University of Illinois Press, $37.95 pb, 184 pp
The third full-length English-language study of the films of Jane Campion is a book that will probably be of more interest to the dedicated student than to the general reader. The American scholar Kathleen McHugh is a stiff though clear and conscientious writer who takes care to make her research visible and to spell out any possibly unfamiliar ideas. She has the academic knack for seizing upon parallels, oppositions and ironies, and working through their permutations. Writing, for example, of Campion’s early preoccupations with ethnography and surrealism, she notes that ‘the two form a matched set, ethnography setting out to make the strange ... familiar, surrealism endeavouring to make the familiar strange’. Having set forth a handful of ‘reversible’ concepts of this kind, McHugh goes on to apply them to each of Campion’s films in turn: the bulk of the book proceeds chronologically from the early shorts to the recent In the Cut (2003), incorporating extensive plot summary and ‘thick description’.