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Friday, January 24, 2020

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[Review] Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

"When you asked if I had known love. I could tell the answer was yes. And that it was now." - Marianne

In today's cinema, where every project comes with such a ponderous methodical approach with one goal to impress, effortless invisibility has become a rare gem. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is that rarity. Director/screenwriter Céline Sciamma's technical prowess is incredibly refined, her timing is fluid and her delivery is graceful. She reminds us that what we're peeping through are simply pieces of someone's life, that we're fortunate enough to witness, or better yet, to feel. Sciamma composes every frame with a certain amount of unposed shades: the colors are muted and the diction is understated, yet it never shies away from its true-being: a passionate portrait ablaze with its scattered, powerful imageries. 

More than its technicality, the even greater strength here is how well Sciamma understands her subject: memories. She knows that for Marriane to tell a story of Héloïse—wonderfully played by the passionate pair of Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenelthe viewers have to make our own as well. From its closeups, classical melodies, hushed words, to brilliant focus on their eyes, those little elements of memories that Sciamma examines feel perfectly honest and loving. Through her deep-seated script and intimate direction, Portrait of a Lady on Fire finds Sciamma getting drawn to the past, picking up the right colors and stroking her brush onto the canvas to incite, form, and engrave memories on us. In the end, not only do those deep, straight gazes form memories, but we also hold on to these precious moments as if they were our own—and when that adieu comes and those eyes don't look back, we can't help but long for a glimpse of that stare.


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