Portrait de la jeune fille en feu
starring Luàna Bajrami, Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Valeria Golino
written and directed by Céline Sciamma
by Angelo Muredda "If you look at me, who do I look at?" young noblewoman and bride-to-be Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) asks of Marianne (Noémie Merlant), the artist tasked with painting her marriage portrait, midway through Céline Sciamma's beautifully conceived if somewhat airless Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a historical romance that would easily replace Call Me by Your Name as the swoon-inducing queer love story du jour (with a comparably stunning ending) for youths to share memes from on Tumblr, if Tumblr weren't moribund. That moment of a living art object impishly talking back to the woman who is ostensibly capturing her for posterity works as both quippy wordplay and thematic key. Like much of the Cannes-awarded screenplay, one of the Alejandro González Iñárritu-chaired jury's numerous astute picks, that exchange is doing double-work in a film that's earnestly invested in raising the question of what kinds of lives are representable, and in exploring the tenuous line between lovers from different stations as well as portrait artists and their objects of study.