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Portrait of a Lady on Fire has been on our radar for a long time. It premiered at Cannes way back in May where it won the Queer Palm. Since, it has been lauded as one of the must-see flicks out of last year’s festival. You may have heard of another foreign movie which premiered at Cannes this year called Parasite. So while we were very excited to see Portrait, it was frustrating that it was so overshadowed by Parasite, and saw very little distribution until now.
But alas, Portrait of a Lady on Fire has finally arrived! And boy was it worth the wait. This movie is easily one of the best movies from 2019, and even beyond that. It’s probably among the best movies we’ve seen in the past ten years. It is a story simple on the surface, but so deep and rich in subtext that you’ll be thinking about it for weeks. We certainly have been. It follows a young woman hired to paint the daughter of a Countess on a remote island off of France. But the daughter believes her to have been hired just as a companion, and the painting was to be done in secret. Along the way they fall in love.
Portrait explores women’s place in society at the time, which as you may have noticed too closely resembles how they are treated today. But the social commentary is so deft that it never really feels like commentary. You can just enjoy the movie as it plays out in front of you. And it does play out in front of you. It feels so personal you almost feel like you’re spying on their love story.
This movie is stunning in so many ways. First off, you can’t help root for them to be together. Their chemistry is astronomical. And you feel it through a very scant script. It’s not overburdened with dialog like most films are these days. Simply the way they look at each other and interact is enough. Everything they do feels so matter of fact. They don’t force your emotions with music because there is none (save for one hauntingly beautiful witchy chant). It just feels like everything is meant to be.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire is also amazing to look at. Everything is so minimal. The island they are on feels all but deserted; the house they stay in is nearly empty. Yet somehow the set design and cinematography feel so interesting and again just RICH that you never want to look away. I’ll say it one last time, this movie was stunning.
Have you been able to see Portrait of a Lady on Fire yet? If not, we HIGHLY recommend checking it out. It’s not really a movie that can be spoiled, but you may want to experience the story fresh and if so, come back another time. But for anyone who has seen it, join us as we spend about an hour GUSHING about this movie on today’s episode of So…I’m Watching This Show!