Sunday, October 9, 2022

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France: Céline Sciamma, 2019)


Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France: Céline Sciamma, 2019: 119 mins)

Passion brews quietly between an artist and her subject, until together they create a space in which it can briefly flourish, in this sumptuous eighteenth-century romance from Céline Sciamma, one of contemporary French cinema’s most acclaimed auteurs. Summoned to an isolated seaside estate on a secret assignment, Marianne (Noémie Merlant) must find a way to paint a wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), who is resisting chattel marriage, by furtively observing her. What unfolds in exquisite tension is an exchange of sustained gazes in which the two women come to know each other’s gestures, expressions, and bodies with rapturous intimacy, ultimately forging a subversive creative collaboration as well as a delirious romance. Charged with a yearning that almost transcends time and space, Portrait of a Lady on Fire mines the emotional and artistic possibilities that emerge when women can freely live together and see one another in a world without men. - Criterion

Balsom, Erika. "In Search of the Female Gaze." Cinema Scope #83 (Summer 2020) [" Why not give up on searching for the female gaze and persist instead in the call for another gaze, to borrow the name of the London-based feminist film journal? And yet another and another? It would leave open an intersectional space of invention and difference; it would remain sensitive to historical specificity; and it would welcome a plurality unconstrained by a binary opposition to maleness—something hardly possible in a rule-based approach that designates particular qualities as inherently feminine and others not."]

Batuman, Elif. "Céline Sciamma's Quest for a New, Feminist Grammar of Cinema." The New Yorker (January 31, 2022)

Bittencourt, Ella. "Portrait of a Lady on Fire: Daring to See." The Current (June 23, 2020) ["Around the besotted lovers, the film envisions a social contract defined by a strong sense of community among women, no matter their age or class. It takes place in the late eighteenth century, but it also speaks to our own time, as many women continue to call for intersectional solidarity in their fight for equality. It is no accident that here the engine of this revolution is art. Sciamma, who grew up outside Paris and would bike into a neighboring town to go to the movies, creates a provincial world in which art—both as a technique governed by solemn tradition and a practical tool for remaking one’s world—is a part of daily life, and in which the artist’s gaze is reciprocal, not one-sided. Similarly, the film presents the act of falling in love not through the (quintessentially male, one might say) lens of conquest and possession but through one of equality between the two lovers, creating a reality in which each can truly see the other."]

Complex, Valerie. "Stanning the Ancients." Letterboxd (June 20, 2020) ["Valerie Complex probes the intersection of Greco-Roman mythology and queer experience in Portrait of a Lady on Fire, The Neon Demon, Jumbo and Midsommar."]

Corry, Dominic. "The Céline Sciamma Q & A." Letterboxd (February 11, 2020)

D'Avella, Katy. "Beyond the gaze: the radical desire of Portrait of a Lady on Fire." Electric Ghost (June 1, 2020)

Haenel, Adèle, et al. "Portrait of a Lady on Fire." Film Comment Podcast (October 1, 2019) ["Eugene Hernandez, FLC’s Deputy Director and Co-Publisher of Film Comment, is joined by Film Comment Editor-in-Chief Nicolas Rapold to discuss Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which the magazine is presenting at the festival. ... Then we go to last night’s Q&A for Portrait of a Lady on Fire, featuring writer-director Céline Sciamma and stars Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant. Moderated by Amy Taubin, they discuss a David Lynch-esque approach to sound design, the similarities between directing and painting, how art consoles the soul, the costume design, and (spoilers!) the film’s final scene."]

Henry, Alex and Carla Smith, eds. Portraits of Resistance: The Cinema of Céline SciammaSeventh Row (ND) [Excerpt from the book

Javvadi, Praveena. "Establishing Perspective in Portrait of a Lady on Fire." The Best Pictures Project (April 5, 2021)

Jeitler, Morgan. "Cinematic Memory in ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ and ‘Pain and Glory.'" The Best Picture Project (April 5, 2021)

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