By Robin Pomeroy
CANNES, France (Reuters) - Jane Campion, the first and so far only woman to win the Palme d'Or, is back at Cannes almost a quarter of a century after winning the festival's top prize for "The Piano", this time with a chilling six-part made-for-TV drama.
"Top of the Lake: China Girl" is the second series of the cop story made for the BBC which critics have compared to David Lynch's "Twin Peaks" due to its disturbing off-kilter tone.
"Lynch - he's our master, he spawned us," New Zealander Campion said of the American director who is also in Cannes this year, with the reboot of TV show "Twin Peaks".
Starting in a low-rent brothel staffed with Asian immigrants, one of whom goes missing, the "China Girl" part of the title appears to refer to the murder victim, but could apply just as well to the central character, a young woman detective whose brittle exterior fails to conceal her troubled soul.
Elizabeth Moss, who reprises the role as the story moves from New Zealand to Australia, said her character represented the type of feminism for which Campion is known.
"Getting to play a character who is strong but vulnerable, dark yet funny, is intelligent but makes terrible mistakes, for me that is a feminist idea in itself – that women can be all those things," Moss told Reuters in an interview.
For this series, which also features Nicole Kidman, Moss has a partner thrust upon her, a gauche, overly enthusiastic junior played by Gwendoline Christie, best known for her roles in Game of Thrones and the J. J. Abrams Star Wars franchise, who said "Top of the Lake" occupies "an interesting fluctuating place between horror and hilarity".
A remarkable scene in the first episode shows a group of computer nerds at a cafe posting website reviews of prostitutes they have hired, expressing macho swagger they clearly lack in the real world.
"That came from the net," said Campion, describing how she and co-writer Gerard Lee had discovered the existence of such review sites during their research and used it to show not only the men's misogyny but also, in come cases, their vulnerability.
"We could not believe the graphic detail," said Campion. "(But also) sometimes quite cute things: 'we spooned at the end, that was the best part'."
(Editing by Gareth Jones)