ash’s review published on Letterboxd:
Clandestine love and yearning personified through the strokes of a paintbrush on a canvas. PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE is a ballad of fiery passion and forbidden desires; a pristinely intricate ode to lesbian love, and a manifesto to the female gaze.
Visually, Sciamma’s beloved mastery here is accompanied by some of the most portentous and gorgeous shots; wonderfully compassionate cinematography from Claire Mathon, who is equally a master of her craft here as Sciamma with her nurturing direction and intimate script, as Mathon paints each frame as a painting, each shot a precisely dotted and stroked work of art that elicits emotions of yearning and despondence, wishfully accompanying the human words of Sciamma’s naturally poetic script and the performances of the actors intensely and passionately living out these words of love, desire, hopelessness and joy.
Not being conclusively sold on this on first watch, I’m so glad to have seen the light here on my second watch and come to terms with the heartbreaking, yet rhythmic beauty and compassion that Céline Sciamma’s masterwork holds, among the dispiriting agony of a world and time that would not grow close to such a love and bond between two women; hopefully a prejudiced resentment that is long past it’s expiry in its existence among us - a resentment formed out of prejudice and lesbophobia that should have never existed.
It is safe to say that Sciamma’s masterpiece will be a film long remembered for its beauty and its humanity; a compassionate work that speaks levels on the love and passion women have and will always possess - the kind of love + passion that our male-dominated society has tried to extinguish for years, but it’s a flame of momentous talent, power and potency that will never and should never be extinguished. We can only thank Sciamma and her cast + crew for giving us a world without men (a reality that is sadly not realised), but within this male-less serenity that we call Portrait of a Lady on Fire, we truly get to see the passions and desires that our perceived “normalcy” has let down, and thankfully Sciamma’s holds her match to the candle and fans the flame for such desires and passions to be explored in the most poetic, beautifully human of ways. It’s a work that deserves applause from everyone, because I truly haven’t experienced a film with such a strong beating heart as this one, especially so a film with such a strong message on women and how they’re (rightfully) just so much better than men at what they do, what they feel and what they say. Sciamma’s masterpiece is one for the ages and it’s a loving tribute to women. Pg. 28.