Holy Smoke (1999)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

USA/Australia, 1999.  India Take One Productions, Miramax.  Screenplay by , Jane Campion.  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by Janet Patterson.  Film Editing by .  

Exciting and inventive story about a young woman (Kate Winslet) who travels to India and joins a cult. Feigning a terminal illness in the family, her parents lure her back home to Australia and hire a ‘Cultural Exiter’ (Harvey Keitel) to de-brainwash her, taking her to a cabin in the middle of the desert for three days.  Winslet turns out to have quite the potent effect on Keitel, leading to a constant back and forth between the two that goes to what it intends are uncertain results but actually come off as rather oblique.  Jane Campion’s lively direction keeps the film fresh and vital even when the story is not as generous as it should be.  The photography is endlessly colourful, and the musical selection dead on every time: Keitel passed out in the desert wearing one boot and a red dress and having a mirage that Winslet is a Hindu goddess singing ‘Baby It’s You’ is something you must see with your own eyes. Campion’s films are generally about women who are at odds with the society around them and are forced to suffer for it, but always come out having become better people for the trouble they’ve endured. This one is no exception, with Winslet giving a tour-de-force performance.

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