Portrait of a Lady on Fire review – burning desires and flashes of Hitchcock
Girlhood director Céline Sciamma’s gripping 18th-century story of obsession demonstrates a new mastery of classical style
Céline Sciamma has brought a superbly elegant, enigmatic drama to Cannes that compels a shiver of aesthetic pleasure and fear. With this new story, she demonstrates a deeply satisfying new mastery of classical style to go with the contemporary social realism she showed in Girlhood (2014) and Tomboy (2011).
The setting is 18th-century Brittany, where an Italian noblewoman (Valeria Golino) has engaged what is officially a ladies’ companion for her beautiful daughter, Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), who has just come out of a convent and is recovering from the loss of her sister. The companion, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), is actually an artist, and the countess wishes her to paint a portrait of Héloïse in secret, to be shown to a wealthy prospective husband in Milan, because headstrong Héloïse would never consent to sitting for any such picture. A previous artist was fired.Continue reading...