Portrait of a Lady on Fire ★★★★½

NZIFF FILM #5
It’s very dumb how much time I spent considering whether to rate this 4 or 4.5 stars.

This movie is fantastic, but for a lot of the runtime I had sort of resigned myself to feeling like this might be a very typical-feeling period gay costume drama. As the movie unfolded, I was definitely more and more enrapt in it, but not finding it particularly exciting or special, save for great dialogue and a few moments. Then there are two things that happen in the film that really perked me up– one being a truly phenomenal use of music in a movie which, otherwise, does not really have anything in the way of score or soundtrack.

The other was a retelling of the myth of Eurydice, told in a way that you know it’s going to be thematically important (as if that’s ever not the case any time a character in a movie starts reciting a story.) I found myself liking it a lot more in the second half- and then the ending fucking floored me. And I feel like anyone who reads this and then sees the movie might go “really? That’s what did it?” because it’s a very simple ending. But I really really liked it, and it moved me a surprising amount. Walking away from the theater, i had a conversation about what the final few scenes were intended to mean, and no matter our interpretations it felt powerful. Outstanding.

Also, Adéle Haenel’s facial expressions throughout this film are so captivating, she gives an incredible performance. Also also, I was not expecting the title to be so literal. The very first scene of the film really set me up to think it would be something much worse upon realizing that it was. Also also also– GOD it is pleasurable to watch someone paint.