Portrait Of A Lady On Fire | Discussion & Review | Film Club

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire | Discussion & Review | Film Club


– Hey folks, I’m Alex Dowd. – HI I’m Katie Rife. – We are talking today about a favorite of the
Cannes Film Festival Celine Sciamma’s new movie,
“Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” – Welcome to Film Club. (jazzy music) – So there’s this moment in, “Lady Bird” from a few years ago, Greta Gerwig’s film that’s always stuck with me. It’s a scene where Lady Bird is sitting down with this head
nun, played by Lois Smith. Lois Smith is talking about how she thinks that there’s not a lot of difference
between attention and love, is what she says. That when you pay attention to something that is an expression of love. And I thought about that a lot while watching Celine Sciamma’s new movie, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” I think it’s absolutely a film about that conflates the
process of studying something and studying someone and falling in love with them. – Yes absolutely. This film definitely, my main thought after
I watched it was that it makes, just looking
intently at someone’s face and memorizing their features seem like the most
romantic thing possible. – Yeah, like the sexiest thing. – Yes, it’s very sexy also. So that happens within
the context of a story that’s set in believe
it’s 18th century France. So we open with a young painter. She’s a woman painter, which is very unusual for her time. And she’s played by Noemie Merlant. Her name is Marianne, and she’s been hired to
go to this remote manor – It feels like a private island. – Yeah, it’s like a private island, sort of like a manor house for this aristocratic family. And they’ve got a daughter
who’s name is Heloise who’s played by Adele Haenel, I believe is how you say her name. So she’s playing the rebellious daughter of this aristocratic family who really just does not
want to get married, at all. And being the time that they’re in part of the courting process
is sending a portrait of the intended to her potential fiance to see basically if he likes her. If he thinks she’s attractive. – It’s almost like a receipt. – Kind of yeah. – Or like a receipt of intentions. – Or like sending somebody a
selfie off of Tinder nowadays. (laughing) It’s the slow motion version of that. And she just refuses to
sit for the portrait. She’s just a nightmare to every painter who has ever come in to do the portrait ’cause she knows full well that when this portrait is done she has to go get married, and she really doesn’t want to do that. So Marianne is the newest painter to come, and Heloise’s mother tells Marianne, Just hang out with her. Don’t let her know that
you’re painting her and paint at night in secret. And that’s when the observation begins. – I think it’s a great romantic setup. Partially because of what we talked about that it’s all about observation and about studying somebody. When you meet somebody,
that’s what it’s about. – And spending time with them. – Yeah you’re spending time with somebody and you’re learning things about them. I think it functions as
this beautiful slow burn. We’re very slowly seeing
these two move close together. Another thing I appreciate about it though is that there is a bit of a moral dimension to this dilemma that our main character has. – Oh sure. – Because she understands that the job is basically to get this portrait, but she also knows that if
she finishes this portrait and once the job is done she is basically hastening
Heloise’s entrance into… – Marriage. – Into a marriage and a
life she doesn’t want. – And becoming a piece of chattel, being exchanged like goods. Once they fall in love with each other which is what happens when they spend all this time together. It becomes even more of a dilemma because she can’t finish the
portrait or else it’s over. That’s it. She has to leave. – Exactly, there’s a
personal stake at that point. – Yeah, exactly. – I’m fascinated by, I think that there is kind of a feminist dimension to this film as well. It goes beyond simply
the plot being about, – A lesbian romance. – A lesbian romance and also about whether or not somebody
is going to be pushed into a marriage they don’t want. – Well it’s a very small cast and it’s almost entirely female. – I would say, definitely not incidentally. – Not at all.
– Even when we meet the character who Heloise is potentially going to be betrothed to we don’t even see his face. – You could even extrapolate Saffo came from the island of lesbos. They’re on their women’s
utopia island together. My one thing, this film does take a while to get going. – It does. – You get into the rhythm
of their every day life which is a lot slower
then we’re used to now. I think that that actually
ends up making it more powerful once it does kind of explode
into a passionate relationship because you feel like
you’re getting to know them as they’re getting to know each other. – Totally. It’s a seduction as well. The movie is taking it’s time in the way that somebody
might take their time during the seduction process. They’re very slowly moving together until the moment when they finally meet the tension at that point, the romantic tension and the
sexual tension between them is at this fever pitch. That only works, I think, if the movie is very
gradually building to that. – Yeah, I really love the scene where they kind of let each other know that they’re into each other. It’s like we’ve been talking about. They say to each other, “Well you bite your lip
when you’re nervous. “You blink a lot when you’re excited.” Just little tiny things that they’ve noticed about each other. It’s just, it’s very romantic. Also to bring it to the feminist dimension you were talking about, everyone talks about the male
gaze and the female gaze, and I think that this
movie is a great example of the female gaze. Not only because it was made by a woman who is herself, the director, – Celine Sciamma, yeah. – Yeah, she’s a member of
the lesbian community also and actually dated the main
actress for a long time. – Might have been an interesting set. – They have a history, the two of them. I mean, that adds a sort
of subtextual level too. – It does. – Not entirely on the gossipy level, also on a romantic level. – The amount of care and affection that the
movie lavishes on Heloise comes not just from the character but from the camera. – Right, from the camera as well. – The way she’s framed, the way she’s lit. The movie, I think, is in
love with her as a performer. – Yes, and in love with her is
a very important distinction from lusts after her or is objectifying her because that’s the main critique when you talk about the male gaze in film is that it portrays women as objects, but this is very much, she’s a subject. Subject of the portrait,
subject of the movie, just everything. It’s all in love with her on a personality level as
well as a physical level which I think is what really speaks to that aspect of the gaze of the film. – Alright folks, thanks
for joining us today. – Please be sure to like our video, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and we’ll be back next week with another episode of Film Club, thanks.

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