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thumbnail Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019 France)

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Director: Céline Sciamma
Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami
Historical drama
122 mins         Rated R

18th century France before the Revolution. An artist, Marianne undertakes a difficult sea voyage to reach an aristocratic family’s remote Brittany estate. There, a young woman Héloïse is about to be married off to a Milanese nobleman, but there’s a catch: the would-be husband insists on having a portrait of her first. Marianne has to do what another artist had recently failed to do—paint the portrait of Héloïse, who had refused to pose. She is introduced as Héloïse’s walking companion, although, in the course of their strolls, she must closely observe and furtively sketch her and complete the portrait in secrecy. A friendship and romance develops, during a time when homosexual relations were forbidden. Director Céline Sciamma is not pedaling softcore lesbian porn. Her film is about the heady experience of an impossible first love and the transfixing power of art to capture the intimacy of flesh and spirit.

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