1945, Leningrad. WWII has devastated the city, demolishing its buildings and leaving its citizens in tatters, physically and mentally. Two young women search for meaning and hope in the struggle to rebuild their lives amongst the ruins.
In a popular suburb of Dakar, workers on the construction site of a futuristic tower, without pay for months, decide to leave the country by the ocean for a better future. Among them is Souleiman, the lover of Ada, promised to another.
A passionate coming-of-age tale set amidst the conservative confines of modern Tbilisi, the film follows Merab, a competitive dancer who is thrown off balance by the arrival of Irakli, a fellow male dancer with a rebellious streak.
In 18th century France a young painter, Marianne, is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Héloïse without her knowing. Therefore, Marianne must observe her model by day to paint her portrait at night. Day by day, the two women become closer as they share Héloïse's last moments of freedom before the impending wedding.
It was the favourite of many critics and journalists to win the Palme d'Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival but Parasite (2019) won instead. See more »
What do you tell your models to amuse them?
Are you bored?
No. I'm interested in you.
Your complexion is remarkable today. You're very elegant. You pose beautifully. You're pretty. That's what I tell them.
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"The higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly"
I've dreamt of that for years.
And so begins our introduction to the titular character and her nascent growth into being--a growth beyond the canvas, beyond the parameters of physical isolation, beyond the inescapable predicament of social and family burden. It is a taste of freedom. The beginnings of a liberating journey to find an existential peace from the inner turmoil that, as we learn early on in the film, likely took her own sister's life.
Céline Sciamma's Portrait de La Jeune Fille en Feu is a remarkable film. It is Call Me By Your Name in its judgement-free paradise, palpable sexual tension, and look-into-the-flame Élio catharsis. It is The Favourite in its female-centric, lesbian-tensioned period drama with Vivaldi as a centerpiece (but with a mood far more romanced than Yorgos' unique lavish satirical darkness). It is Persona in its framing of duality and Abbas Kiarostami in its lunar pacing. It is unapologetically feminist: a love story between two souls who happen to be women on an island free of men, including but not limited to an abortion, the subsequent painting of said abortion, and the gentle caressing of armpit hair at center screen.
While not entirely its own, the film is nonetheless brilliant in almost every regard. Cinematography, including framing, color palette, and the dream-like landscape, is stunning. There is a visual language of unspoken glances and facial beauty through close-ups and lighting that parallels the script and brings out the mystique of the enigmatic Héloïse. The story is unveiled so poetically, as if watching the long-restrained passion of the female artist slowly burst from the seams of her oppressive corset of objectification.
'"The "muse" is this fetishized silent woman who is inspiring just because she is beautiful. One of the manifestos of the film is to get rid of this idea of the muse-which is a nice word that actually hides the participation of women in artistry."
Céline Sciamma, Writer/Director
The nine muses of the Greek Mythology were deities that gave artists, philosophers and individuals the necessary inspiration for creation. One of the nine muses, Calliope, had a son named Orpheus... Sciamma's thought-provoking commentary on women and art is gently told but powerfully received, and it does not go unnoticed.
This film, like a majestic portrait, will remain echoing in your mind like the haunting hymnal Latin chant, "Fugere non possum": I cannot run away.
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