Portrait of the girl on fire . It was the feminine sensation on the Croisette during the last festival . Apparently a realization of sublime classicism. In appearance only. The latest feature film by committed director Céline Sciamma renews the genre of period films - the action takes place in 1770 in Brittany - with a particularly contemporary work, awarded the prize for best screenplay at Cannes.
Abortion, love between two women ... So many questions very current in a solar film, upsetting delicacy and aesthetics which claims to be a sentimental education.
Portrait of the young girl on fire is the story of a woman painter, Marianne ( Noémie Merlant ) secretly hired to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse, a young aristocratic girl, just out of the convent and promised to a man she has never seen. As tradition dictates, the canvas must be sent as soon as possible to the impatient groom.
The only act of rebellion possible to delay a fate that does not belong to her: Héloïse, camped by the incredible Adèle Haenel , refuses to pose and scares away all the painters who fail to capture her face. By pretending to be her new lady companion, Marianne observes Héloïse to better sketch her immense beauty and pierce the woman she is.
The existential question of art and desire
The title of the film has the name of a painting… And it is above all the birth of a work of art, behind the scenes of a painting that this Portrait of the young girl on fire reveals which deciphers the metaphysical questions of the artist, echoing the work of Virginia Woolf , the Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde or the Painter of Modern Life by Baudelaire.
It is only after twenty long minutes of suspense that the true face of Heloise is revealed to the viewer, seen through the eye of the artist. A true act of survival, Héloïse has so far refused to surrender her soul to a portrait painter. But the free and fresh gaze that Marianne will put on her will reveal this rough diamond and give birth to a passionate and impossible love between the painter and his model.
Sensuality reinvented in cinema
Here, the question of gaze, of desire is essential, far from the archetypal codes of female and sexual representation by a man. Céline Sciamma puts her camera on the back of her neck, offers close shots on a shoulder, a hand, a look, and captures the excitement that a simple light on a grain of skin can generate.
Far from the “ male gaze ” denounced in the cinema, the art of the director's suggestion creates an eroticism of a new genre over sex scenes of disturbing sensuality and a singular amorous dialogue but of a formidable natural.
A surge of poetry and marvelous aesthetics which suddenly makes the raw scenes and controversies around La vie d'Adèle , Palme d'Or only 6 years old in Cannes out of date . Proof that the power of women in the world of cinema is changing slowly, but surely!
In theaters September 18.
Also discover La Traviata 2.0 which sets the Palais Garnier on fire.