Oscar-winning New Zealand director Jane Campion's new movie has received rave reviews by some of the world's biggest newspapers at the Cannes Film Festival.

The only woman to have won the festival's top prize debuted Bright Star last week.

The movie tells the story of the love affair between poet John Keats and his neighbour in north London, Fanny Brawne.

English actor Ben Whishaw is cast as the poet, who died at 25. Fanny is played by Australian actress Abbie Cornish.

The movie is in competition for the Palme d'Or, which Campion won for The Piano in 1993. The award will be announced at the closing of the festival next Sunday.

Wellington-born Campion, who lives in Sydney, also won an Oscar for Best Screenplay for The Piano, in which Kiwi Anna Paquin scooped the Best Supporting Actress award.

The Independent said Bright Star, which is due to be released in New Zealand this year, had revived Campion's career.

"Campion has been off the boil for years, but Bright Star is her best film since The Piano ... with Greig Fraser's painterly photography setting the film magnificently at odds with the usual Dickens-Austen screen cliches."

The Guardian wrote: "Campion brings to this story an unfashionable, unapologetic reverence for romance and romantic love, and she responds to Keats' life and work with intelligence and grace.

"Any movie about a romantic poet has to be careful how glowingly it depicts the great outdoors, but this film looks unselfconsciously beautiful."

US industry bible Variety also praised the film.

"All of Campion's films centre upon strong, complicated women, and Cornish's Fanny takes her place among the most memorable of them."

The New York Times said that at the end of the screening on Friday there were few dry eyes.

Campion is not the only New Zealand presence at Cannes. Under the Mountain and The Vintner's Luck - both based on New Zealand novels - are also showing.