Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire ★★★★★

FilmFest Oostende 2019 | #12
2019 Ranked | #1
Céline Sciamma Ranked | #1

I was about halfway through this movie, or maybe a bit before that, when I finally realized where I recognized the painted woman from: it was Floriane, the bad girl on the swimming team in Sciamma's debut feature WATER LILIES.

What a difference! To see her like this, 12 years later, in another Sciamma picture, in a slightly similar (if "lesbian" is enough for that) yet completely different role. It's been interesting to see Sciamma evolve with each of her works, and it was just as lovely to see Adèle Haenel in this again, and I couldn't help but think of her as a child in WATER LILIES every so often. It only improved my viewing experience.

PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE? Well, I loved it. I've loved nearly every Sciamma film (which isn't that much, honestly, since she's only directed three before this one) and almost all for different reasons. And yet, very much for the same reasons as well. Many of the aspects that first made me fall in love with her are apparent in this, yet different, sometimes more confident, sometimes more hesitant, but altogether working together in a way that's never clicked this well in any of her previous works.

Where WATER LILIES felt too hesitant, TOMBOY felt too anxious, and GIRLHOOD almost felt too confident, PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE finds that sweet spot that just feels like it's perfect. It's hesitant when it has to be, it's confident when it has to be, and it's the most "movie"-like of all her movies so far, and I mean that in a good way.

It's a profoundly gentle story with stunning cinematography and two leads who make it impossible for you not to fall in love with this movie.


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