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#TIFF19 Review: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Special Presentations)

September 8, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is an 18th century artist who is commissioned to paint a portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), ahead of her arranged marriage to a Milanese businessman. Héloïse is resisting the marriage, and doesn’t want to be painted, so her mother (Valeria Golino) has hired Marianne to do the portrait in secret. She accompanies the young woman for walks during the day, acting merely as a hired companion, drawing her late at night from memory. While the sheltered Héloïse acts distant at first, she craves the company of Marianne, and their relationship soon blossoms into something much deeper, as repressed feelings burst to the surface.

The latest from French filmmaker Céline Sciamma, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a highly sensuous and beautifully filmed period piece, rich with longing glances and simmering romantic tension. This is heightened by Claire Mathon’s immaculate cinematography. Every shot of the film is like a painting, with the actors often framed in the centre of the screen, and the light hitting their faces at just the right angles. The performances by Merlant and Haenel are excellent, with palpable chemistry between them, and the final moments when the film reaches a crescendo are breathtaking.

Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel in Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Public Screenings:

Thursday, September 5th – 9:15 PM at Winter Garden Theatre

Friday, September 6th – 3:00 PM at Winter Garden Theatre

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