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Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire days passed and the film that could overshadow Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory” did not Portrait of a Lady on Fire appear in the Official Cannes Competition. However, the appearance of ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’, the dazzling new film by French filmmaker Céline Sciamma, finally encourages the race to achieve the coveted Palme d’Or. Curiously, despite the difference in historical and geographical settings , there is a powerful thematic nexus that connects the proposals of Almodóvar and Sciamma: attention to desire as the central axis of the filmic representation (something they also share with Albert Serra from ‘Liberté’). In her new film, the director of ‘Tomboy’ takes us to French Brittany at the end of the 18th century. There, a young painter, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), arrives at some stately rooms where she must fulfill the order of painting a “marriage portrait” of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), who faces with disgust the prospect of complying with the marriage agreement that His mother (Valeria Golino) has arranged for him.

Taking the exercise of pictorial creation as a structural element of the staging, Sciamma’s camera adopts the perspective of Marianne, the painter, to gradually reveal the figure of Héloïse, the reluctant model. First the nape, then the hands, little by little the features of the face, the smile … A process of gestural and physical discovery that will be accompanied by the progressive rapprochement, first empathic and then sentimental, between the two young women. Here is a romantic drama that Sciamma knows how to carry an incendiary love tension, with the protagonists exchanging the functions of observer and observed from their roles of artist and model. And, meanwhile, both in the heart and in the background of the story, an incisive reflection on the oppression of the female will is outlined. In the foreground, the possibility of banishing the lesbian affair from the territory of the illicit seems like a utopia. In the background, an abortion incident takes shape, starring a young maid, a thorny subplot resolved with hardly a hint of squalor.

Duration: 122 min


IMDb: 8.1