I guess I never told you, readers, what happened to me the day I went to go see Portrait of a Lady on Fire back in October. It seems like this would be an appropriate time to tell you, anyhow. So, if you don’t know, I went to see The Lighthouse that same day in the afternoon up in LA—an event that I ended up being late to too. Afterward, I had to get some 8mm film developed because when I’m in LA, I usually take advantage to use its awesome resources to get some of my movie work processed.
Being the idiot I am, I completely lost track of time, and I realized it was around the start of late afternoon traffic. Ultimately, I drove for almost five hours from LA to San Diego for the film festival. In the process of this, I also scraped my car, not one, but TWO times on my drive there. I also ended up missing the first three minutes of the movie. Evidently, as you can imagine, I was extraordinarily grouchy going into seeing Portrait of a Lady on Fire. In a sense though, that in of itself is a compliment for the movie, considering despite my s**t attitude, I still ended up giving the movie a high grade of an A-. You rock, Céline.
So yeah, yeah, I know I’m making excuses but I wanted to preface this review before I start discussing why I love this special film even more on rewatch. There’s a specific qualm from my original review that I’d favor to go over in which I’ve completely changed my mind on. In this previous review of the movie, I had claimed that the cinematography displayed in the film was “50/50.” Maybe my possible migraine caused me to nitpick the hell out of the cinematography or I was just being needlessly pissy that the movie wasn’t shot on film or something, but I openly admit that I was wrong. Witnessing the colorful ornamenting of Portrait of a Lady on Fire is like walking around in Candyland. I officially retract what I had said about the visual look of this movie from my original review. Okay; cool.
I empathetically profess Céline Sciamma’s masterpiece to having virtually FLAWLESS dialogue that evokes the genuinest indications of desirability. Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel gave by far the best performances of 2019 alongside Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse—yet for very contrasting grounds. The two ladies’ subtle facial cues speak so essentially to the audience’s faith between these lovers. The execution of Sciamma’s feature-length, as I believe I had mentioned in my previous review, is arguably painted in perfection.
I suppose the one argument somebody could make to discredit Portrait of a Lady on Fire is that from a “surface-level” point-of-view, the plot is foreseeable and accustomed. Even at that, it is the outstanding substance and contextual presentation of the actual movie that vindicates the debatably familiar structure—you don’t want your motion picture to be so heavy with thematic individualities that no viewers can possibly carry it.
So yeah, if I could go back in time, I would definitely place Portrait of a Lady on Fire in the top 3 of my favorite movies of 2019 article. It’s frankly one of my all-time favorite romantic dramas amongst other cult classics such as Punch-Drunk Love or The Lobster—and in all fairness, it definitely has the best ending out of all of them too. F*****g fire film.
“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” is now playing in select theaters.