Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist
poliphilo

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is 18th century France and the rules of class and gender are against them but they're on an island, authority has been withdrawn- and they have the inside of a week to celebrate the mysteries.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...
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  • Playing At House Hunting

    I've just been listening to the silence. If we move to a town centre it's unlikely to ever be as quiet as this. It was a cold damp…

  • Under The Desk

    I dreamed I was in a bank or police station- facing a reception desk with two women behind it. I was dealing with the one on the left and the one…

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