An Angel at My Table


52m 1990
An Angel at My Table

Brief Synopsis

An account of the dramatic childhood and early adulthood of New Zealand writer Janet Frame.

Film Details

Also Known As
Angel At My Table, Ein Engel an meiner Tafel, En ängel vid mitt bord
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Biography
Adaptation
Release Date
1990
Production Company
Channel 4; Channel 4; Channel Four Television; Channel Four Television; Film4 Productions; Film4 Productions; Opticals & Graphics; Tv New Zealand; Tv New Zealand
Distribution Company
Fine Line Features; Art Filmes; Camera Film; Cinelibre; Cinemien; Curzon Artificial Eye; Curzon Artificial Eye; Fine Line Features; Mikado Film; New Line Home Entertainment; Pandora Films
Location
Spain; France; England, United Kingdom; Auckland, New Zealand

Technical Specs

Duration
52m

Synopsis

An account of the dramatic childhood and early adulthood of New Zealand writer Janet Frame, including her lengthy stay in a mental institution.

Cast

Kerry Fox

Janet

Alexia Keogh

Young Janet

Karen Fergusson

Teenage Janet

Iris Churn

Mum

K J Wilson

Dad

Melina Bernecker

Myrtle Frame

Glynis Angell

Isabel Frame

Samantha Townsley

Isabel Frame--As A Teenager

Katherine Murray-cowper

Isabel Frame--As A Child

Sarah Smuts-kennedy

June Frame

Susan Mcgregor

June Frame--As A Teenager; Pamela

Sarah Llewellyn

June Frame--As A Child

Andrew Binns

Buddie Frame

Christopher B Lawrence

Buddie Frame--As A Teenager

Mark Morrison

Buddie Frame--As A Child

Carla Hedgeman

Poppy--As A Child

Caroline Somerville

Poppy--As A Teenager

Colin Mccoll

John Forrest

Martyn Sanderson

Frank Sargeson

Jessica Wilcox

Kay Stead

Mark Clare

Karl Stead

Michael Harry

Colin

William Brandt

Bernard

Peter Dennett

Mark Goulden

David Mackenzie

Alan Sillitoe

Eleanor Wragge

Ruth Sillitoe

Jessie Mune

Janet Frame--As A Baby

Francesca Collins

June Frame--As A Baby

Mark Thomson

Billy Delaware

Brenda Kendall

Miss Botting

Paul Moffat

Dis Mcivor

Blair Hutchinson

Bully Boy

David Mcauslan

Bully Boy

Ailene Herring

Teacher

Faye Flegg

Doctor

Melissa Dawson

Nora Bone

Angela Ford

Turning Girl

Lorna Storm

Groovy Girl

Timothy Bartlett

Gussy Dymock

Richard Mills

Talent Scout

Sassy Acorn

Audition Girl

Tony Creamer

Audition Boy

Hamish Mcfarlane

Avril Luxton

Geoff Barlow

Headmaster

Edith Campion

Miss Lyndsay

Fiona Kay

Marguerite

Brian Flegg

Doctor

Eileen Clark

Neighbor

Margaret Gordon

Neighbor

Lillian Enting

Miss Crowe

Fiona Brown

Shirley

Maureen Duffy

Miss Farnie

Karla Smith

Sybil

Willa O'neill

Edith

Fritha Stalker

Bridget

Melanie Reid

Melanie

Natasha Gray

Lesley

Kelly Stewart

Rose

Erin Mills

Katherine

Virginia Brocklehurst

Rona

Natalie Ellis

Aunt Isy

Eddie Hegan

Uncle George

Erin Dorricott

Eunice

Francene Clark

Mary

Doreen Donnell

Teacher

Alistair Douglas

Headmaster

Rod Collison

Mr Niles

Harry Lavington

Head Of Psychology

Sheryl Stewart

Nurse Maitland

Cushla Aston

Borstal Girl

Jacqueline O'rourke

Borstal Girl

Joy Trow

Woman On Platform

June Shane

Neighbour

Annabel Lomas

Mrs Chandler

Ann Coc-kroft

Nurse

Elizabeth Mcrae

Nurse

David Stott

Doctor

Jim Rawdon

Wilson

Peter Brunt

Dr Burt

Celia Nicholson

Piona

Peter Needham

Dr Palmer

Josh Cole

June And Wilson'S Child

Ian Hendl

June And Wilson'S Child

Helene Anderson

Norwegian Woman

Joan Foster

Hotel Manageress

David Letch

Patrick

Rob Jayne

Ben

Sharon Marsden

Katie

Collette Cooper

Bohemian

Paul Norell

Bohemian

Julia Calvo

Spanish Woman On Train

Maria Matias

Spanish Woman

Carlos Martinez

Spanish Official

Maria Mercedes Maroto

Catalina

Paula Sanchez

Francesca

Timothy Smith

Edwin Mather

Alison Bruce

Dora

Gwyneth Hughes

Matron

Gerald Bryan

Dr Cawley

Billy Atkinson

Mrs Morgan

Caroline Flint

Mrs Goulden

Rachel Hernandez

Columba

Patrick Griffiths

Reporter

Andrew Robertt

Crew

Bob Askwith

Scenic Artist

Monserrat Baste-kraan

Production Coordinator (Spain)

Alex Boyd

Casting (New Zealand)

Cheryl Cameron

Research

Anna Campion

Production Assistant

Meryl Cronin

Set Dresser

John Dennison

Sound Rerecording

John Dennison

Sound Mixer

John Dennison

Sound Editor

Stuart Dryburgh

Director Of Photography

Stuart Dryburgh

Dp/Cinematographer

Janet Frame

From Autobiographies ("To The Is-Land" "An Angel At My Table" "The Envoy From Mirror City")

Katherine Fry

Production Assistant

Jackie Gilmore

Art Direction

Moira Grant

Production Assistant

Allen Guilford

Director Of Photography 2nd Unit (2nd Unit)

Allen Guilford

Dp/Cinematographer

Susan Hackshaw

Standby Wardrobe

Marjory Hamlin

Makeup

Veronica Haussler

Editor

David Hazlitt

Production Assistant

Jessica Hobbs

Assistant Director

Owen Hughes

Production Manager

Bridget Ikin

Producer

Brigit Ilkin

Production Manager (Europe)

Glenys Jackson

Costume Designer

Laura Jones

Screenwriter

Lisa Kissin

Location Manager

Peter Long

Research

Grant Major

Production Designer

Faith Martin

Casting (Australia)

John Maynard

2nd Unit Director (2nd Unit)

John Maynard

Assistant Director (Europe)

John Maynard

Co-Producer

Don Mcglashan

Composer

Janet Mciver

Pre-Production Manager

Graham Morris

Sound Recording

Hilary Quick

Research

Paul Radford

Scenic Artist

Malcolm Robertson

Assistant Director

Diana Rowan

Casting

Corrie Soeterboek

Assistant Director

Elle Stephenson

Makeup

Sam Thompson

Production Coordinator

Tony Vaccher

Sound Editor

Trixie Woodill

Standby Wardrobe

Film Details

Also Known As
Angel At My Table, Ein Engel an meiner Tafel, En ängel vid mitt bord
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Biography
Adaptation
Release Date
1990
Production Company
Channel 4; Channel 4; Channel Four Television; Channel Four Television; Film4 Productions; Film4 Productions; Opticals & Graphics; Tv New Zealand; Tv New Zealand
Distribution Company
Fine Line Features; Art Filmes; Camera Film; Cinelibre; Cinemien; Curzon Artificial Eye; Curzon Artificial Eye; Fine Line Features; Mikado Film; New Line Home Entertainment; Pandora Films
Location
Spain; France; England, United Kingdom; Auckland, New Zealand

Technical Specs

Duration
52m

Articles

An Angel At My Table


The life of New Zealand novelist, poet and autobiographer Janet Frame is as compelling as her writings. Born into an impoverished working-class family, she was a shy and socially awkward girl whose only refuge was the journals that she kept. Frame's feelings of inadequacy were exacerbated by a series of family tragedies. While working as student teacher, she suffered a breakdown and was misdiagnosed as schizophrenic. For eight years, while continuing to write, she was in and out of mental hospitals. She endured hundreds of electroshock treatments, and was about to have a lobotomy when her doctors learned that she had won a literary prize and released her. Her first two books were actually written while she was institutionalized.

New Zealand director Jane Campion read Frame's first novel Owls Do Cry as a teenager, and identified with the main character. As she later wrote, "Frame gave Daphne this inner world of gorgeously imagined riches, but also affirmed it in me, and in countless other sensitive teenage girls: we had been given a voice - poetic, powerful and fated." When the first volume of Frame's three-part autobiography was published in 1982, Campion was attending film school in Australia. After reading it, she was decided that she wanted to adapt it for television, and determined to get the rights to the book. She sought out Frame, who agreed to let her make the film, but not until after the release of the other two volumes of her autobiography. Even though Campion only had a few short student films to her credit at the time, Frame agreed not to give the rights to the books to anyone else. After directing one feature, Sweetie (1989), Campion finally made Frame's autobiography into a three-part television miniseries in 1990. Frame made no demands, only told the director, "Do your best." Three remarkable actresses play Frame at different ages. They all seem like the same person, and they are all extraordinary.

The series was slightly re-edited and released as a feature film in 1990, under the title of the second book of the autobiography, An Angel at My Table. It was the first New Zealand film to be screened at the Venice Film Festival, where it won several prizes, but not the top award. "It was not the best film at the festival, but it was the most loved," Campion later recalled. "When it was awarded the second prize, the Silver Lion, the crowd wouldn't allow the head of the jury to announce the winner. For 10 minutes they chanted, 'Angel, Angel, Angel, Angel.'"

Critics also loved An Angel at My Table. Variety called it "A potentially painful and harrowing film is imbued with gentle humor and great compassion, which makes every character come vividly alive." Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times, "The movie records the world as Janet sees it, sometimes incredibly beautiful and as often frightening. It remains steadfastly objective and a little puzzled, as if recognizing the impossibility of ever knowing the mind itself, except through books." And Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times found the film "Strangely engrossing from beginning to end....It is told with a clarity and simplicity that is quietly but completely absorbing....It tells its story calmly and with great attention to human detail and, watching it, I found myself drawn in with a rare intensity."

The international success of An Angel at My Table heightened interest in Frame's work, and her books were published in more than a dozen languages. Although she was able to live on her earnings as a writer for the first time, Frame remained uncomfortable with the worldwide acclaim and continued to live a simple, solitary life devoted to writing until her death in 2004, at the age of 79.

Director: Jane Campion
Producer: Bridget Ikin, John Maynard
Screenplay: Laura Jones, based on Janet Frame's autobiographies To the Is-Land, An Angel at My Table and The Envoy from Mirror City
Cinematography: Stuart Dryburgh
Editor: Veronika Haussler
Costume Design: Glenys Jackson
Art Direction: Jackie Gilmore, Grant Major
Music: Don McGlashan
Principal Cast: Kerry Fox (Janet Frame), Karen Fergusson (Janet Frame as a teenager), Alexia Keogh (Janet Frame as a child), Iris Churn (Mum), KJ Wilson (Dad), Melina Bernecker (Myrtle Frame), Glynis Angell (Isabel Frame), Sarah Smuts-Kennedy (June Frame)
157 minutes

by Margarita Landazuri
An Angel At My Table

An Angel At My Table

The life of New Zealand novelist, poet and autobiographer Janet Frame is as compelling as her writings. Born into an impoverished working-class family, she was a shy and socially awkward girl whose only refuge was the journals that she kept. Frame's feelings of inadequacy were exacerbated by a series of family tragedies. While working as student teacher, she suffered a breakdown and was misdiagnosed as schizophrenic. For eight years, while continuing to write, she was in and out of mental hospitals. She endured hundreds of electroshock treatments, and was about to have a lobotomy when her doctors learned that she had won a literary prize and released her. Her first two books were actually written while she was institutionalized. New Zealand director Jane Campion read Frame's first novel Owls Do Cry as a teenager, and identified with the main character. As she later wrote, "Frame gave Daphne this inner world of gorgeously imagined riches, but also affirmed it in me, and in countless other sensitive teenage girls: we had been given a voice - poetic, powerful and fated." When the first volume of Frame's three-part autobiography was published in 1982, Campion was attending film school in Australia. After reading it, she was decided that she wanted to adapt it for television, and determined to get the rights to the book. She sought out Frame, who agreed to let her make the film, but not until after the release of the other two volumes of her autobiography. Even though Campion only had a few short student films to her credit at the time, Frame agreed not to give the rights to the books to anyone else. After directing one feature, Sweetie (1989), Campion finally made Frame's autobiography into a three-part television miniseries in 1990. Frame made no demands, only told the director, "Do your best." Three remarkable actresses play Frame at different ages. They all seem like the same person, and they are all extraordinary. The series was slightly re-edited and released as a feature film in 1990, under the title of the second book of the autobiography, An Angel at My Table. It was the first New Zealand film to be screened at the Venice Film Festival, where it won several prizes, but not the top award. "It was not the best film at the festival, but it was the most loved," Campion later recalled. "When it was awarded the second prize, the Silver Lion, the crowd wouldn't allow the head of the jury to announce the winner. For 10 minutes they chanted, 'Angel, Angel, Angel, Angel.'" Critics also loved An Angel at My Table. Variety called it "A potentially painful and harrowing film is imbued with gentle humor and great compassion, which makes every character come vividly alive." Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times, "The movie records the world as Janet sees it, sometimes incredibly beautiful and as often frightening. It remains steadfastly objective and a little puzzled, as if recognizing the impossibility of ever knowing the mind itself, except through books." And Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times found the film "Strangely engrossing from beginning to end....It is told with a clarity and simplicity that is quietly but completely absorbing....It tells its story calmly and with great attention to human detail and, watching it, I found myself drawn in with a rare intensity." The international success of An Angel at My Table heightened interest in Frame's work, and her books were published in more than a dozen languages. Although she was able to live on her earnings as a writer for the first time, Frame remained uncomfortable with the worldwide acclaim and continued to live a simple, solitary life devoted to writing until her death in 2004, at the age of 79. Director: Jane Campion Producer: Bridget Ikin, John Maynard Screenplay: Laura Jones, based on Janet Frame's autobiographies To the Is-Land, An Angel at My Table and The Envoy from Mirror City Cinematography: Stuart Dryburgh Editor: Veronika Haussler Costume Design: Glenys Jackson Art Direction: Jackie Gilmore, Grant Major Music: Don McGlashan Principal Cast: Kerry Fox (Janet Frame), Karen Fergusson (Janet Frame as a teenager), Alexia Keogh (Janet Frame as a child), Iris Churn (Mum), KJ Wilson (Dad), Melina Bernecker (Myrtle Frame), Glynis Angell (Isabel Frame), Sarah Smuts-Kennedy (June Frame) 157 minutes by Margarita Landazuri

An Angel at My Table - An Angel At My Table on DVD


Once again, the Criterion Collection can be counted on to bring us wonderful surprises. Jane Campion's An Angel at My Table is an absorbing feature adapted from the autobiographies of Janet Frame, a noted New Zealand author who wished to dispel rumors that she was a madwoman committed to an asylum. Director Campion pulls back from her more florid style of fiction filmmaking (The Piano) to render a remarkable life without poetic embellishments. Thanks to no-nonsense direction and wonderful casting, An Angel at My Table is the filmic equivalent of a book too good to put down.

Synopsis (some spoilers): To the Is-Land: Chubby and topped with frizzy red hair, little Janet Frame grows up a miserable outcast in rural New Zealand. Feeling inadequate and overly sensitive, she retreats into a personal world of stories and poetry. An Angel at My Table: Avoiding people in school and college, Janet chokes up when a supervisor visits her first teaching classroom. Soon thereafter she's diagnosed as schizophrenic and voluntarily committed to an asylum where she undergoes horrific shock treatments...for eight years. Just before the thoughtless doctors can have her lobotomized, her books win Janet a prestigious local prize and the diagnosis is reversed. She lives with a bohemian writer while continuing to write, and her next book wins a grant to travel overseas. The Envoy from Mirror City: Janet's adventures in England, France and Spain show her making an effort to break out of her isolation, but she eventually returns to New Zealand.

We know we're in special territory from the first few images. The filmic equivalent of "I am born" shows a happy baby being picked up by a loving mother. The baby's bare feet are helped to pace through the grass. Then the voiceover begins as we see a young Janet Frame walking toward us on a road. With a mountain of frizzy red hair, the pudgy little girl is a perfect candidate for social failure. Campion moves us rapidly through Janet's formative experiences. Desperate for friends, she steals money to treat her classmates to gum but succeeds only in being branded a thief. Her personal catastrophe widens when, along with other poor, unloved and unwashed children, she's weeded from the class almost as an aesthetic gesture and put in a 'retarded' group. Scorned and humiliated, Janet builds a habitable world for herself by retreating into reading and fantasy. Even her large family doesn't know how to interpret her avoidance of social contact. She stays a loner, private and shy beyond words.

Campion and screenwriter Laura Jones don't smooth the edges of the tale; this is no My Brilliant Career in which we're told the heroine is plain yet are confronted with the beautiful Judy Davis. Alexia Keogh and Karen Fergusson play Janet Frame as a small child and as a young teen, blending brilliantly with the adult Kerry Fox to give the impression of the same person growing up. Janet's desultory narration describes a hopelessly unkempt and smelly outcast; she is forever teased and shunned by groups of other girls leading normal social lives. With blotchy skin and rotting teeth, Janet thinks of herself as a slug to be kept hidden from view.

All the more wonderful then that her gifts were recognized. The 'Angels' at Janet’s table appear to be a number of people who gave her encouragement when she needed it most. A loan of a book of fairy tales is like a ticket to another world; even in her 'special' classes, her poetic talents are rewarded with a prized medal and an adult library card. These signs of approval sustain her through painful years of school, avoiding other students while admiring male teachers from afar.

Just when she's getting the opportunity to try to teach children, Janet cracks up in the classroom, unable to face the scrutiny of superiors. Her secret inner life, which is only a social defense, is unfortunately misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. Convinced that there must be something wrong, Janet is far too quick to volunteer to be 'sent to a place to rest.'

An Angel at My Table could easily be a horror story but Campion sketches Frame's eight years in an asylum with short impressions. Instead of finding rest, Janet lives in mortal fear of frequent electroshock treatments apparently dispensed to give psychiatric staffers the illusion of doing something proactive. Her rescue is almost too melodramatic to be believed. Lobotomizing a literary prizewinner strikes even the asylum doctors as inappropriate. The reprieve -- and some loving help from a sister -- is all Janet needs to give life another shot.

Janet's eventual trip to Europe is a combination of delights and disasters, a poet's dream-come-true interrupted by the traumas of lost luggage and hostile rooming houses. A retreat in Spain is less idealized than the Mediterranean experiences in Merchant-Ivory films, as we see Janet floundering on her own before being accepted by local women who prefer her to the Americans that come for sexual adventures. The only stumbling point is Campion's use of generic gypsy flamenco music to cover almost the entire Spanish episode.

Janet has her first sexual adventure in Spain, but more importantly finds a release from her fears regarding her mental health. A no-nonsense English psychiatrist offhandedly tells her she's not schizophrenic, and that if she doesn't want to mix in with people, she has his approval not to. These few short words from a stranger are like the lifting of a death sentence. At age 33, Janet finally becomes her own person.

The movie is assembled from a three-part New Zealand Television miniseries directed and assembled with great care. Jane Campion's handling is remarkable in that neither Janet nor the film blames anyone else for her problems. The tale becomes a series of little miracles for our unlikely heroine as she's rescued time and again by her 'impractical' literary gifts. Instead of condemning outmoded medical practices and social cruelties, An Angel at My Table demonstrates why progressive ideas of teaching and mental care are indeed more enlightened.

Criterion's disc of An Angel at My Table is a sparkling enhanced transfer bringing out the wonderfully rich colors of Stuart Dryburgh's cinematography, which according to his commentary had to tone down the naturally bright greens of New Zealand. The transfer information mentions a blow-up film element, indicating that the film may have been shot on 16mm. If that's the case, the visual achievement is twice as impressive. The original audio has also been remixed in 5.1.

The extras widen the viewing experience and will doubtless turn many in the direction of the original Janet Frame books. Campion, cameraman Dryburgh and actress Kerry Fox turn in a very good commentary. We learn that one of the most expensive items in the budget were the convincing red wigs worn by the three actresses playing Janet, the blast of red hair that makes little Alexia Keogh look like Little Orphan Annie's unloved twin sister. A new featurette covers the making of the film and its prize-winning trip to the Venice Film festival. A number of deleted scenes are short but pointed, especially a timeless clip in which Janet and other unfortunates are ignored during a game of jump rope.

The real Janet Frame is heard in an audio interview from 1983 to discuss the autobiography and counter rumors of her insanity. We're also given a trailer and a hefty stills gallery, where we can see Kerry Fox in her natural long dark hair and more attractive makeup. Criterion producer Kim Hendrickson assembles a fat booklet with a thoughtful essay by Amy Taubin and three substantial excerpts from author Frame's three part autobiography.

For more information about An Angel at My Table, visit the Criterion Collection. To order An Angel At My Table, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

An Angel at My Table - An Angel At My Table on DVD

Once again, the Criterion Collection can be counted on to bring us wonderful surprises. Jane Campion's An Angel at My Table is an absorbing feature adapted from the autobiographies of Janet Frame, a noted New Zealand author who wished to dispel rumors that she was a madwoman committed to an asylum. Director Campion pulls back from her more florid style of fiction filmmaking (The Piano) to render a remarkable life without poetic embellishments. Thanks to no-nonsense direction and wonderful casting, An Angel at My Table is the filmic equivalent of a book too good to put down. Synopsis (some spoilers): To the Is-Land: Chubby and topped with frizzy red hair, little Janet Frame grows up a miserable outcast in rural New Zealand. Feeling inadequate and overly sensitive, she retreats into a personal world of stories and poetry. An Angel at My Table: Avoiding people in school and college, Janet chokes up when a supervisor visits her first teaching classroom. Soon thereafter she's diagnosed as schizophrenic and voluntarily committed to an asylum where she undergoes horrific shock treatments...for eight years. Just before the thoughtless doctors can have her lobotomized, her books win Janet a prestigious local prize and the diagnosis is reversed. She lives with a bohemian writer while continuing to write, and her next book wins a grant to travel overseas. The Envoy from Mirror City: Janet's adventures in England, France and Spain show her making an effort to break out of her isolation, but she eventually returns to New Zealand. We know we're in special territory from the first few images. The filmic equivalent of "I am born" shows a happy baby being picked up by a loving mother. The baby's bare feet are helped to pace through the grass. Then the voiceover begins as we see a young Janet Frame walking toward us on a road. With a mountain of frizzy red hair, the pudgy little girl is a perfect candidate for social failure. Campion moves us rapidly through Janet's formative experiences. Desperate for friends, she steals money to treat her classmates to gum but succeeds only in being branded a thief. Her personal catastrophe widens when, along with other poor, unloved and unwashed children, she's weeded from the class almost as an aesthetic gesture and put in a 'retarded' group. Scorned and humiliated, Janet builds a habitable world for herself by retreating into reading and fantasy. Even her large family doesn't know how to interpret her avoidance of social contact. She stays a loner, private and shy beyond words. Campion and screenwriter Laura Jones don't smooth the edges of the tale; this is no My Brilliant Career in which we're told the heroine is plain yet are confronted with the beautiful Judy Davis. Alexia Keogh and Karen Fergusson play Janet Frame as a small child and as a young teen, blending brilliantly with the adult Kerry Fox to give the impression of the same person growing up. Janet's desultory narration describes a hopelessly unkempt and smelly outcast; she is forever teased and shunned by groups of other girls leading normal social lives. With blotchy skin and rotting teeth, Janet thinks of herself as a slug to be kept hidden from view. All the more wonderful then that her gifts were recognized. The 'Angels' at Janet’s table appear to be a number of people who gave her encouragement when she needed it most. A loan of a book of fairy tales is like a ticket to another world; even in her 'special' classes, her poetic talents are rewarded with a prized medal and an adult library card. These signs of approval sustain her through painful years of school, avoiding other students while admiring male teachers from afar. Just when she's getting the opportunity to try to teach children, Janet cracks up in the classroom, unable to face the scrutiny of superiors. Her secret inner life, which is only a social defense, is unfortunately misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. Convinced that there must be something wrong, Janet is far too quick to volunteer to be 'sent to a place to rest.' An Angel at My Table could easily be a horror story but Campion sketches Frame's eight years in an asylum with short impressions. Instead of finding rest, Janet lives in mortal fear of frequent electroshock treatments apparently dispensed to give psychiatric staffers the illusion of doing something proactive. Her rescue is almost too melodramatic to be believed. Lobotomizing a literary prizewinner strikes even the asylum doctors as inappropriate. The reprieve -- and some loving help from a sister -- is all Janet needs to give life another shot. Janet's eventual trip to Europe is a combination of delights and disasters, a poet's dream-come-true interrupted by the traumas of lost luggage and hostile rooming houses. A retreat in Spain is less idealized than the Mediterranean experiences in Merchant-Ivory films, as we see Janet floundering on her own before being accepted by local women who prefer her to the Americans that come for sexual adventures. The only stumbling point is Campion's use of generic gypsy flamenco music to cover almost the entire Spanish episode. Janet has her first sexual adventure in Spain, but more importantly finds a release from her fears regarding her mental health. A no-nonsense English psychiatrist offhandedly tells her she's not schizophrenic, and that if she doesn't want to mix in with people, she has his approval not to. These few short words from a stranger are like the lifting of a death sentence. At age 33, Janet finally becomes her own person. The movie is assembled from a three-part New Zealand Television miniseries directed and assembled with great care. Jane Campion's handling is remarkable in that neither Janet nor the film blames anyone else for her problems. The tale becomes a series of little miracles for our unlikely heroine as she's rescued time and again by her 'impractical' literary gifts. Instead of condemning outmoded medical practices and social cruelties, An Angel at My Table demonstrates why progressive ideas of teaching and mental care are indeed more enlightened. Criterion's disc of An Angel at My Table is a sparkling enhanced transfer bringing out the wonderfully rich colors of Stuart Dryburgh's cinematography, which according to his commentary had to tone down the naturally bright greens of New Zealand. The transfer information mentions a blow-up film element, indicating that the film may have been shot on 16mm. If that's the case, the visual achievement is twice as impressive. The original audio has also been remixed in 5.1. The extras widen the viewing experience and will doubtless turn many in the direction of the original Janet Frame books. Campion, cameraman Dryburgh and actress Kerry Fox turn in a very good commentary. We learn that one of the most expensive items in the budget were the convincing red wigs worn by the three actresses playing Janet, the blast of red hair that makes little Alexia Keogh look like Little Orphan Annie's unloved twin sister. A new featurette covers the making of the film and its prize-winning trip to the Venice Film festival. A number of deleted scenes are short but pointed, especially a timeless clip in which Janet and other unfortunates are ignored during a game of jump rope. The real Janet Frame is heard in an audio interview from 1983 to discuss the autobiography and counter rumors of her insanity. We're also given a trailer and a hefty stills gallery, where we can see Kerry Fox in her natural long dark hair and more attractive makeup. Criterion producer Kim Hendrickson assembles a fat booklet with a thoughtful essay by Amy Taubin and three substantial excerpts from author Frame's three part autobiography. For more information about An Angel at My Table, visit the Criterion Collection. To order An Angel At My Table, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Winner of the International Critic's Award at the 1990 Toronto Festival of Festivals.

Named Best Foreign Film of the Year from the Australian Film Critics Circle.

Released in United States Spring May 19, 1991

Released in United States June 14, 1991

Released in United States June 28, 1991

Released in United States on Video February 26, 1992

Released in United States June 1990

Released in United States June 10, 1990

Released in United States September 1990

Released in United States September 13, 1990

Released in United States October 1990

Released in United States 1991

Released in United States January 1991

Released in United States February 1991

Released in United States May 1991

Released in United States August 1991

Shown at Melbourne Film Festival June 8-23, 1990.

Shown at Sydney Film Festival June 10, 1990.

Shown at Toronto Festival of Festivals September 6-15, 1990.

Shown at Venice Film Festival (in competition) September 13, 1990.

Shown at MIFED in Milan October 1990.

Shown at New York Film Festival October 4 & 6, 1990.

Shown at Valladolid Film Festival, Spain October 19-28, 1990.

Shown at Rotterdam Film Festival January 24 - February 3, 1991.

Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival April 26 - May 9, 1991.

Shown at Palm Springs International Film Festival January 8-13, 1991.

Shown at Berlin Film Festival (International Forum) February 15-26, 1991.

Shown at Filmfest DC in Washington, DC, May 1-12, 1991.

Shown at Malmo Film Days in Stockholm August 26-29, 1991.

Film was originally picked up for North American theatrical release by Circle Releasing Corporation.

Formerly distributed by SVS/Triumph Home Video.

Director Jane Campion won an unprecedented eight prizes at the 1990 Venice Film Festival, including the Silver Lion.

Broadcast over Australian Broadcasting Corporation Television (ABC-TV) April 3-4, 1991.

Completed shooting April 7, 1990.

Began shooting July 30, 1989.

Film originated as a three-part mini-series for New Zealand television.

Released in United States Spring May 19, 1991

Released in United States June 14, 1991 (Los Angeles)

Released in United States June 28, 1991 (Chicago and Washington, DC)

Released in United States on Video February 26, 1992

Released in United States June 1990 (Shown at Melbourne Film Festival June 8-23, 1990.)

Released in United States June 10, 1990 (Shown at Sydney Film Festival June 10, 1990.)

Released in United States September 1990 (Shown at Toronto Festival of Festivals September 6-15, 1990.)

Released in United States September 13, 1990 (Shown at Venice Film Festival (in competition) September 13, 1990.)

Released in United States October 1990 (Shown at MIFED in Milan October 1990.)

Released in United States October 1990 (Shown at New York Film Festival October 4 & 6, 1990.)

Released in United States October 1990 (Shown at Valladolid Film Festival, Spain October 19-28, 1990.)

Released in United States 1991 (Shown at Rotterdam Film Festival January 24 - February 3, 1991.)

Released in United States 1991 (Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival April 26 - May 9, 1991.)

Released in United States January 1991 (Shown at Palm Springs International Film Festival January 8-13, 1991.)

Released in United States May 1991 (Shown at Filmfest DC in Washington, DC, May 1-12, 1991.)

Released in United States August 1991 (Shown at Malmo Film Days in Stockholm August 26-29, 1991.)

Voted most popular film at the 1990 Sydney Film Festival.

Released in United States February 1991 (Shown at Berlin Film Festival (International Forum) February 15-26, 1991.)