“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” capturing the queer experience on the silver screen

Haley Soares, Arcade Editor

portrait of a lady on fire
Ashley Chen | Production Manager

After a long wait by audiences across the country, we may finally rejoice in the wide release of “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.”  Winner of the prestigious Queer Palm Feature and Best Screenplay awards at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, the movie did not disappoint. 

Set in 18th century France, the movie follows the story of a painter who must successfully execute a portrait without her subject knowing. Despite being set in such a distant time period, the movie is still relevant in both themes and narrative. 

Directed by a woman and containing only women in the lead roles, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” is a breath of fresh air in a (straight) male-dominated industry. This film has been one of the most successful and realistic tellings of a lesbian love story that I have had the pleasure of witnessing on screen. 

There is no shortage of movies without either queer representation or fetishization of queer women, but only a handful of films accurately portray the queer experience, much less in such an elegant, tasteful and moving manner. 

Aside from the tragically beautiful writing and performance, the film also features stunning cinematography and an incredible use of color. Every shot was breathtaking, every small movement had motivation and every interaction was mesmerizing. Looking back on it, I’m not sure that I was able to stop clutching the edge of my seat for the entire duration of the film. 

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” was unlike anything I have ever known, and as soon as I left the theater — even with tears still drying on my cheeks — I was already eager to see it again. 

Be sure to catch “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” while you can. It is currently showing at the Broad Theater in New Orleans, and showtimes along with tickets can be found on their website. 

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