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Critics reviews
Top of the Lake
Jane Campion, Garth Davis New Zealand, 2013
It’s not quite auteurist TV a la Twin Peaks, so it doesn’t fill that (rumbling) void — Campion directed most but not all of it. So we’ve just had two episodes directed by Garth Davis. It’s all beautifully photographed by Adam Arkapaw, reminding me of the first True Detective in its landscape work. But you do notice the difference when Campion’s not at the tiller. The shots cut together less fluidly, the changes in shot size are less intelligible.
September 27, 2017
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Mullan’s performance channels incredible sensitivity in this moment, letting the audience in to feel his sadness for his lost daughter, but not letting viewers deep enough to truly understand why. Images of his self-flagellation and brutal retaliation showcase his dangerous instability, and only Sam Peckinpah has ever come close to capturing the dangers and insecurities of masculinity as well as Campion on screen. Both position the force of masculinity as incredibly alluring but inherently toxic.
June 30, 2016
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Top of the Lake is far warier [than Happey Valley and The Fall] of the authority of institutions, suggesting that Griffin and Tui are best off depending on themselves. As a result, of the three shows it best reflects contemporary feminist critiques of the inherent paternalism of law enforcement and the deployment of the police against marginalized communities and those who resist the establishment.
April 20, 2015
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Top intervenes in the fetishizing of white, adolescent girls and eschews the inherent vulnerability that the genre ascribes to femininity and that drives its sexualized pathos. In making the protagonist biracial and transnational, a Thai New Zealander, Campion and Lee refuse the codes of racialized value that have persistently informed the gender politics of this genre and its affective appeal.
March 20, 2015
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It is an ambitious, long-format work, as worthy of scrutiny by film scholars as Fassbinder’s World on a Wire, Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, or Olivier Assayas’s Carlos, which were all made for television. Campion’s adherence to cinematic imagination is admirable, even if the final episode of her long-form mystery thriller, abundant in sharp dramatic turns, bends too far in the direction of manufactured shock.
March 13, 2014
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Top Of The Lake is obnoxiously deterministic. We should probably be grateful Johnno never revealed himself to be into hostel torture, or maybe that’s the subtext. But that’s because the series is more symbolic, and all the roiling themes actually tie into this coup de grace. Al and his buddies pass on the violence to the next generation. Remember what Jamie said about the dark creator who rips out hearts?
April 15, 2013
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Campion rolls out not only a narrative idea but a worldview—male dominance as a toxic force, strangling the world like kudzu in a garden—and sacrifices that vision to off-the-rails plot twists, character contrivance, and convenient episode-seven mopping up. This is a crying shame, as Top of the Lake’s initial episodes were fascinating precisely because they were tonally awkward and inconsistent.
March 31, 2013
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Even though Top of the Lake is steeped in the atmosphere of its lush, real locations, and has a pungent, at times overpowering physical realism, it’s as much a fable or cautionary tale as it is a detective story. As in Campion’s The Piano — and her other films, including An Angel at My Table, Sweetie, Portrait of a Lady, and Bright Star — this miniseries is jam-packed with situations that play like archetypal showdowns between representatives of male and female psychology.
March 21, 2013
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The great expanse of time and episodic nature that partially defines the series format allows Campion to work at once ambitiously and confidently, splintering her view of femininity into various levels of economical standing and age, seen through a cadre of characters, all of whom are robustly developed in loving detail. And many of their prime conflicts mirror Tui’s pregnancy…
March 18, 2013
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[Robin is] a quintessential Campion heroine—navigating an alternately menacing and dreamlike world, pushing back against the hostility and condescension of predatory men. The director, filming in her native New Zealand for the first time since The Piano (1993), has applied her big-screen vision to a small-screen canvas. Auteurs looking to make the leap: This is how you do it.
March 14, 2013
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Top of the Lake is epic in its scale, the drama and performances a match for the New Zealand wilderness in which it is set. I fear that something of its visual power will be lost on the small screen.
March 01, 2013
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