November 22nd, 2021

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire

I'd been reading about Celine Sciamma and thinking I should probably like her work. Later I was looking to see what the BBC i-player had to offer by way of movies- and up popped Portrait of a Lady on Fire. That's the English title. The original French is Jeune Fille en Feu. A Jamesian reference has been traded for a Proustian one- and I suppose that's quite clever really. My friend Stephen used to say that you had to choose between James and Proust- because if you tried to have both of them in your life they'd overwhelm you. I tried James but he didn't take and I've never tried Proust. From all I've read he was a horrible little man....

Back to Sciamma. A painter studies her sitter and the sitter studies the painter- and they fall in love. This is 18th century France and the rules of class and gender are against them but they're on an island, authority has been withdrawn- and they have the inside of a week to celebrate the mysteries. Sciamma watches from close quarters, registering every glance and half smile- and her two actors- Noemie Merlant and Adele Haenal- are remarkable. The movie isn't just a romance- because that would be boring- though it's that as well- and things transpire that are, funny, astonishing, startling, and heart-wrenchingly sad. The cinematography by Claire Mathon is luminously beautiful.

The French revolution is what, twenty years away? That long! Really it can't come too soon...

Footnote 1: Where do you find a painter who can paint in the style of a mid-18th century neo-classicist? Answer: Don't bother, because if they could manage it they'd be deep undercover making millions on the forgery circuit pretending to be Jacques-Louis David. It's the one thing in the movie that's slightly off-key that the paintings never look anything other than 20th century.

Never mind, costume dramas are never really about the past but always about the now.

Footnote 2: Sciamma and Haemal were in the audience when Polanski got given a Palme d'Or - and caused a stir by marching out shouting things like "Honte!" and "Vive le pedophile!"

Good on 'em I say.

Sciamma is three times the film-maker Polanski is- or ever was...

A Set Of Mundane Observations

My sleep patterns are still erratic. I say "still" as if I expected them to revert to some notional norm but they quite probably won't.

I don't think the temperature has hit zero yet but I'm already wearing my dressing gown to bed.

This morning's post brought two new books. We need more bookcases. We need them floor to ceiling.

Ailz asked our son-in-law- the electrician- whether we should rewire. He said, "Don't. It's an old property. You'll have to replaster every wall, take up all the floorboards- and God know what horrors you'll find. It'll be a fucking ball-ache."

Now the horses are back I need to start filling their water butts. And also bear in mind what happens if you turn on a tap, walk away and forget all about it.