What follows is a talk I gave about Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which opened this weekend and which you absolutely must see on a big screen if you love and support contemporary cinema about something besides metaphorical and literal penises.
With its gorgeously textured examination of female desire, creativity and agency, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is one of my favorite films of 2019.
Though it may seem magically out of time and space, it was shot in a never-rehabbed house in Brittany and set in the autumn of 1770—when all that would remain of a moment after it passed was what could be captured by memory and imagination. Witness one of its first scenes, when Marianne, played by Noémie Merlant, leaps fully clothed into the sea to save her canvases while the guys rowing the boat watch impassively (read: uselessly).
This sets the tone for this film, not only in terms of how largely absent men are—this is the last time we see one until nearly the end—but in terms of the female determination that defines this story. Continue Reading →