Portrait of a Lady on Fire: The Criterion Collection
Passion brews quietly between an artist and her subject, until they together create a space in which it can briefly flourish, in this sumptuous eighteenth-century romance from CÉLINE SCIAMMA (Tomboy), one of contemporary French cinema’s most acclaimed auteurs. Summoned to an isolated seaside estate on a secret assignment, Marianne (Heaven Will Wait’s NOÉMIE MERLANT) must find a way to paint a wedding portrait of Héloïse (The Unknown Girl’s 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 look at one another in a world without men.
- New conversation between director Céline Sciamma and film critic Dana Stevens
- New interviews with actors Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant
- Interview with cinematographer Claire Mathon from the 2019 Cannes Film Festival
- Interview from 2019 with artist Hélène Delmaire on creating the paintings for the film, along with behind-the-scenes footage
- English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by film critic Ela Bittencourt
Winner – Best Screenplay, Queer Palm – Cannes Film Festival 2019
“There are some films so exquisite that any attempt to put them into words feels like an act of violence. Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire . . . is just such a film. It seems spun of gossamer, at once tensile and tenuous.” —Catherine Wheatley, Sight & Sound
“A subtle and thrilling love story . . . This is less a chronicle of forbidden desire than an examination of how desire works. Like a lost work of eighteenth-century literature, it is at once ardent and rigorous, passionate and philosophical.” —A. O. Scott, The New York Times
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