Well, Jane Campion certainly appears to be back: The Oscar-winning auteur of The Piano and An Angel at My Table has won some of the best reviews of her career with the passionate, majestic new doomed romance Bright Star. (Our own David Edelstein calls it “remarkably evocative”.) The New Zealand–born Campion made her name early on with a number of unforgettable shorts that revealed her ability to mix absurdist elements with elemental, emotionally resonant stories, often centering on troubled women and/or marital units. One of her first works, An Exercise in Discipline: Peel, winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival (yes, they give those out for shorts, too) is one such film. A structurally playful and surreal look at what can only be described as a family road trip from hell, it’s a masterpiece of stylized ennui. It wouldn’t be her last.
This terrific short is but one of the many extras available on Criterion’s DVD of Campion’s Sweetie, which, after all these years, is still one of the most gorgeous DVDs we’ve ever seen.