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Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Céline Sciamma’s Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, a romance set in late 18th-century France, works on all sorts of levels: It’s a tender but complex love story, a slice of social commentary about the kinds of life and work opportunities historically available to women, and a gorgeous period piece. The picture is thoughtful and intense, a great example of how a well-told story, with vivid characters, can seep into your bones and keep you thinking for days afterward.

Poster for the romantic period drama Portrait Of A Lady On FireA painter, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), arrives on the coast of Brittany to produce a portrait of a young woman, Héloïse (Adèle Haenel). The portrait is meant to assure a prospective future husband of the charms of his wife-to-be. Upon her arrival, Marianne learns that a previous painter has failed in his mission, driven away by Héloïse. Marianne is instructed to pose as a companion to Héloïse, and paint her in secret.

The two young women begin their tentative friendship by going out walking. And right away Marianne begins to see how Héloïse must have broken the other painter: social niceties don’t concern her; she never obliges with a smile. Beyond that, she’s so intensely cryptic and self-possessed that Marianne can’t help wanting to know more.

What Marianne and Héloïse find in one another speaks volumes about the constraints of the larger world around them.  This radiantly sensual film ends on the perfect note, a rush of emotional intensity that’s wrapped in a secret, as hushed as the rustle of silk.

– Stephanie Zacharek, Time

Showtimes: 

No screenings currently scheduled.

Directed by: 
Céline Sciamma
Running Time: 
119m
Country(ies): 
France
Year: 
2019
Language: 
French, Italian
Screenplay by: 
Céline Sciamma

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