Thursday, April 2, 2020

Not merry, but it is lively.

I hardly remember new love. And those of you in it, or on the verge of it, in a way, I envy you.

That probably sounds like a terrible thing to say as a loving husband, but I've been with my wife for almost twenty years. That wild desire, that all-encompassing ridiculousness that consumed me (she was, if we're keeping score, way less...enthusiastic [initially?]) is long gone. It's not like we're miserable or anything, but part of the excitement of a new relationship - a new love - is that it's all so f--king mysterious. And that's either the fun of it, or the f--k of it. But my wife and I? 

Oh, we solved those mysteries years ago.

It's not that the thrill is gone, totally, but from where I'm sitting, forties love can't hold a candle to nineties love. As in seventeen-nineties love. And even if it could, it shouldn't. Because accidents happen and people could get, wait for it, burned.


While we both ponder whether we should keep writing/reading this post, let me just quickly say that Portrait of a Lady on Fire, from writer/director Celine Sciamma is unlike any film I've ever seen before. Granted, I don't watch a lot of, um, period pieces, nor do I watch a lot of French films. Oh, and I'm not into (mostly) silent films, either. But, hey, here we are.

Unbeknownst to me (and you, I hope), parents would commission artists to paint pictures of their daughters as means of marrying them off. It's not exactly romantic, or natural, but it sure is logical. And as the song goes, All you need is logic.

The exquisite Marianne (Noemie Merlant, current star of both my dreams and nightmares) is the portrait painter, and while female painters ain't exactly the routine, nothing about this gig is. Turns out, the subject, the impossibly aloof Heloise (the haunting Adele Haenel), isn't interested in sitting for the painting. At all. So, Marianne is gonna have to do this on the sly, basically stealing glances and locking them in her memory for a time when she can be alone. This is so much like how I rolled in high school, the whole remembering something specific and using it later, but I was working with a way different...canvas.

Live footage of the ladies searching Two Dollar Cinema for a coherent point.
I'm so sorry you two, as I really did try to write something of worth, but you can see, as usual, it all dissolves into juvenile nonsense. I'd love to say something about the astonishing way the characters are developed without the use of dialogue, or to discuss the fascinating way the film is simultaneously sterile and romantic, or even kick around the idea that the title character is obviously Marianne, but all I want to talk to do is to place drugs into my armpits and just stare at you while my clothes literally burn off. Maybe it's the quarantine getting to me, or maybe it's the fact that I've always been an asshole, but either way? F--k it.

Bring me the Yays and Boos. Oh, and some warm bread if you've any left...merci.

Steamy, right?

  • If ever a modern film felt like it was genuinely made hundreds of years ago, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is it.
  • It's probably just me, but does Merlant give off a bit of a Hermione vibe? Something very Granger about all of this...
  • Luana Bajrami plays Sophie, and frankly, I love her. It's pure bonus that she's adorable, sure, but what I dug most about her is she wasn't abjectly terrifying at all times.
  • Have you tried to be funny? 
  • My goodness, was it getting a bit hot at the piano? Turns out, the ivories weren't the only thing being tickled.
  • All the sketching and painting scenes were fantastic, like, the actual artwork, silly goose. The one where she's sleeping was so good. Uh, same with the one on page 28, even if I was terribly distracted during its production.
  • What is this song? It's amazing. It's like the earliest prequel to Pitch Perfect ever, or some sort of rad counterpart to 1917 [review].
  • There's this moment when Marianne admits she's beyond enamored with Heloise because she's staring at her for days in effort to paint her. And Heloise's response is a flawless victory if I've ever seen one.
  • And finally, the bittersweet ending. I basically swooned over how perfectly terrible the story of these two women turns out to be. Because it's a movie, you almost expect that happily ever after is on the table (even if the film is screaming the whole time that it's assuredly not), but by the time we get to the end of the road, reality has squashed the (overwhelmingly odd) fairy tale that was taking place thirty minutes prior. New love is a f--king punch in the stomach, and that's if it goes well.
Swimwear was a trip back in the day...
  • That was probably the most unceremonious drop off I've ever seen. See the trees? *nods* Now, f--k off.
  • It was probably foreshadowing, but unfortunately for Marianne, her canvasses got soaking wet.
  • I gotta be honest with you, I kind of hated Heloise for four-fifths of this movie (though she one me back at the very end...with her book).
  • I get it, sure, but why would you smear the face? So much hard work! (that kind of stuff makes me legit recoil when I see it)
  • All the stuff to, uh, help Sophie was equal parts mysterious and awful. Fine, way more on the awful side, but still (running it off?hanging from the ceiling?)
  • Not that I didn't enjoy the diversion, but that fireside gathering literally came out of nowhere. I thought I sat on the remote and skipped a chapter or something, it was so damned abrupt. Unless, I did skip a chapter? Maybe I bumped it when I was taking my pants off...
  • (that was a joke)
  • (I mean, who wears pants anymore)
  • Okay, also startling, was Marianne's vision of Heloise. I didn't know what the Hell was going in there, either. Was did Heloise become a dead Jedi?
  • Okay, the scene where Sophie is taken to that lady's house was horrific. We've got these clearly unsanitary conditions, A. B, can maybe we relocate this adorable little kid from the bed for a sec? And, C, are you f--king kidding me? This you want to paint?? 
  • Ugh, it might not have the dramatics of the argument scene in Marriage Story [review], but verbal knife near the end fight ain't no slouch, either. Yikes.
  • And finally, I'd be lying to you if I didn't mention that I felt every single one minute of the four and a half hour run-time. Wait, it's only 122 minutes? You sure? Hold on. *checks notes* Those are 18th century French minutes. You have to convert them first.
I actually suggested to my wife that we watch this one together, but instead we started Tiger King of all things, which on the artistic spectrum, I'm pretty sure is Portrait of a Lady on Fire's direct opposite. Even at 44 minutes an episode, and even if it takes the mist insane twists and turns, she always falls asleep. And honestly?

No surprise there.


  1. Great review here! I agree this one ran slow, but those final 10 minutes floored me. You're right, I was expecting what we're used to seeing, but they deliver a damn gut punch instead.

    1. HAhaha, thanks, AW.

      It did run slow for sure, and sometimes it felt like I really was watching paint dry, but like you (I'm assuming), I was okay with that. It really did come together in the end, in the that whole soul-crushing/realistic way that love typically goes.

      Thanks for that, Portrait. I'm trying to escape reality, you f--ker.

  2. During those last few minutes I must've said "Awww" every 30 seconds. And yeah, everything pertaining to that abortion - yeesh!

    1. It was such a bittersweet ending! The portrait had me awwwing all over the place. Okay, that sounds...graphic....but I think/hope you know what I mean.

      Poor Sophie. A damn shame that was.

  3. It's definitely not just too. Merlant gives such a Hermione vibe and it was kind of distracting for me. Anyway, the film didn't really work for me. It was boring and I just didn't care about them. And I really disliked Heloise. Great review though!

    1. RIGHT???? Crazy Gryffindor vibes! CRAZY.

      I 900% felt the film dragged at times, as there are only so many times you can show two characters staring at each other longingly, but I still enjoyed it. I think.

      Heloise? Not a fan, either.

      Thank youuuuuuu, Sonia!