Director Martin Scorsese appeared at the annual New York Film Critics Circle dinner in Manhattan on Wednesday night to honor Jane Campion, who was announced in December as the winner of the group’s Best Director award.
Campion, the Oscar frontrunner for her enigmatic drama “The Power of the Dog,” was twice choked up by emotion during her speech before the members of the 86-year-old critics organization.
Scorsese’s remarks, which can be seen in their entirety in the video above, took the form of a perceptive, film-class analysis of Campion’s choices behind the camera. He blended his unique professorial style with his characteristic enthusiasm and a heartfelt expression of respect for his filmmaking peer. Watch the speech in full below.
“It’s a precious thing to have an artistic voice as powerful as Jane’s, developing over time,” Scorsese said. “It’s like a great ongoing conversation and it’s something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.”
Scorsese also recounted a meal he shared with Campion a few months ago in his New York apartment. At the time, the two directors commiserated over the topic of genre. Both “The Power of the Dog” and Scorsese’s upcoming “Killers of the Flowers Moon,” now in post-production, could be called Westerns, but it is a categorization that Scorsese found slightly bemusing.
“We talked about our pictures,” he said. “We both made Westerns, I guess. They take place in the (1920s). At least, we both know that we had cows in them.”
Campion, when she took to the podium to accept her award, was overcome with emotion.
“Thank you, Marty,” she began, gesturing at Scorsese. “It’s a lifetime thrill to have heard such words said about oneself.” Her voice cracked and she paused for a moment, then continued.
“It is a great honor for me to be chosen for best director and even more so to receive it from critics I respect so much. Back when I began filmmaking I had a kind of rough time in Cannes with my first film ‘Sweetie,’ which included shouts and boos and eviscerating reviews.”
Campion mentioned the late New York Times film critic Vincent Camby, who gave “Sweetie” a positive review in October 1989, and the late writer and cultural icon Susan Sontag, who took Campion out for tea on the young filmmakers first visit to New York.
“The support and sense of enlightenment of this city gave me the encouragement to keep going,” she said, breaking down in tears. “There was a destination for my films and a city for them and for me to aim towards.”
Campion, who is a New Zealander, revealed that she still subscribes to The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine and, she said, “I’m more aware of new eateries and what’s going on in this city than I am in my own.”
And she concluded by bringing the subject back to the man who introuduced her award.
“This is the city where the filmmaker genius Martin Scorsese first made films,” Campion said. “They were startling, modern, provocative, brilliant, introducing actors who were similarly different, charismatic, utterly real. … Marty’s films and the New York reviewers who wrote about them, like the wonderful Amy Taubin, enflamed my passion for film and did nothing less than save me. I was engaged in these stories because they showed me how to understand life.”
Drawing her speech to a close, she fought tears again as she added, “To have you, Marty, be here and present is a beautiful moment for me personally.”
The Scorsese and Campion speeches were a highlight of an evening that also featured remarks by former Vice President Al Gore (who presented an award to the late producer Diane Weyermann); best actress winner Lady Gaga, whose award was presented via video by director Guillermo del Toro; Maggie Gyllenhaal, who won the best first feature award for “The Lost Daughter,” and Oscar nominated Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, whose “Drive My Car” won the critic group’s best picture award.