Shin’s review published on Letterboxd:
Some say when two people are so taken with each other, they operate on the same wavelengths. Finishing each other's thoughts or having complete knowledge of each other's body language are some of the symptoms according to WebMD. A person suffering from such a debilitating disease might also break down in tears when he/she listens to Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire is about a young painter who arrives at an isolated island to paint a portrait of a young lady (who is not on fire all the time) so that the portrait could be sent a "Young Milanese gentleman" for betrothal. The lady is still suffering from the suicide of her sister when her mother hits with the news that she's going to be married and there's nothing she can say that will sway her mother's mind. The painter is brought in to paint her portrait in secret and in the process both fall in love with each other.
The performances of the two leads blew me away, they were phenomenal in their roles and I also loved the camerawork. The ending was heightened to perfection. The paintings were lovely and this film probably has the best nude painting sequence since The Titanic. And the song and dance routine by the bonfire was wonderful too.
There are some interesting callbacks to the title like the scene of a Portrait of a Faceless Lady on Fire or like the Scene of a Lady's dress on fire. What is the fire supported to represent? The boldness of a fire, the smoldering of a fire, or how a fire erases everything? I have no idea.
After I finished this film, I saw a lot of people mentioning the term "Male Gaze" so I had to go read up on that and I must say the way that explicit sexual acts were not shown on the screen was pretty refreshing.
Now I must say before going into this film, I had this feeling that this film was overrated and either it will blow my mind or underwhelm me, it did neither but now I can totally understand why people consider this to be a masterpiece and I am perfectly fine with their assessment, I think it's a great film too but to each their own. I am happy that this film resonated with so many people because while true cinema is hard to come by, real appreciation is harder.
This is one of those masterpieces (like Biutiful or Requiem for a Dream) that I don't think I can ever rewatch. Some things are best left seen once.