Portrait of A Lady on Fire
Rated 14 Accompaniment (Nudity, Sexual Content) ~ Runs 121 minutes
Dir.: Céline Sciamma, France, 2019
Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel
In French with English subtitles
Cannes Festival Winner for Best Screenplay, and winner of 30 other festival and critic’s awards, on over 100 top-ten lists for the year.
“One of the most beautiful and transporting films you will ever see. The titular subject is Héloïse, a reluctant bride-to-be who refuses to sit for a wedding portrait commissioned by her French Countess mother in 1770. Subterfuge is the order of day as mom instructs the artist, Marianna, to study her daughter by posing as her companion on her daily cliffside walks, then painting her from memory in secret. The artist falls under the spell of her subject, until she’s lost in obsession. The sexual tension is palpable as Héloïse, who is just out of a convent and furious that her mother has arranged to marry her off to an Italian nobleman, begins to return Marianna’s interest. And though the film sizzles with an erotic heat that grows from initial repression, Sciamma is not pedaling softcore lesbian porn. Her film is about the heady experience of an impossible first love and the transfixing power of art to capture with paintbrush and canvas the in-the-moment intimacy of flesh and spirit. Shot on a remote island off the coast of Brittany, the film brings a hothouse fervor to the women’s connection. Equally fascinating is the way Sciamma shows us Marianna revising her painting again and again... ‘When do we know it’s finished?’ Héloïse asks the artist, who avoids completion as if that would put an end to the relationship itself. The blazing performances of Haenel and Merlant could not be better or more attuned to the cadences of a secret love... Portrait of a Lady on Fire is enthralling on every level. In her hypnotic and haunting film, alive with humor, heartbreak and swooning sensuality, Sciamma has created nothing less than a timeless work of art.” - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone