Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
February 10, 2020 1:18 AM - Subscribe

On an isolated island in Brittany at the end of the eighteenth century, a female painter is obliged to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman.

Isabel Stevens (Sight & Sound): Céline Sciamma conjures an oasis of female freedom.

Tomris Laffly (Roger Ebert): Sciamma’s gift to 2019 sets a highest standard for any romance that will come after it.

Tim Brayton (Alternate Ending): It's an exhausting film, and it gets more exhausting still as it barrels towards the ending (the last ten minutes, and the last shot in particular, basically dare you not to breathe or blink), but this is what makes it a great love story. It's not meant to be mild and pleasant; it's meant to feel like flying and drowning simultaneously.

Scott Mantz sits down with writer-director Céline Sciamma and stars Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel to discuss their film, Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

posted by sapagan (6 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
this is a masterpiece. that's the review i'm capable of right now. perhaps later, when it's settled a bit, i'll say more.
posted by sapagan at 1:21 AM on February 10


I watch a lot of movies at home during awards season and I confess my attention occasionally strays to my phone (ahem The Irishman). But I couldn't take my eyes off this from the very start. Absolutely mysterious and gripping and intense throughout, and then the ending. The ending! My god.

Can't wait to see this again at the cinema. What a shame it wasn't up for more awards.
posted by adrianhon at 6:56 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]

Really want to see this and it still hasn't opened in the US.
posted by octothorpe at 8:17 AM on February 10

I thought this was totally riveting. Loved it, highly recommended.

There’s a moment late in the film where a man shows up, shattering the isolation of the main characters, and the main character is shocked, and I the viewer was taken aback too — I am not sure any film had ever made me feel that before, shock and dismay to see a man onscreen.

The art in the film is incredible, but I’m not sure it’s as provocative and interesting as the plot would have you believe. But I think that’s a common pitfall of any movie about making art.
posted by Rinku at 6:12 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]

Fantastic film. So sad. Just terriffic.

I really loved seeing the art being made. I did find it just mildly distracting that the art lacked the finish that one would conventionally associate with contemporary portraiture of the era, which would more commonly place the figure in front of a landscape vista, often also against a domestic element such as a drape, situating the location of the sitter within or near to a building. The other missing element in the finish is the more-customary fineness of detail in and on the features of the face, which more typically would have been executed to finish with very fine brushstrokes.

The film used a get-it-done-now plot device to at least partially account for this, so honestly, it’s a minor quibble. Every time they showed paint being laid down, it reminded me of how much I miss painting.
posted by mwhybark at 12:36 PM on February 13

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