Portrait of a Lady on Fire is the Pick of the Week

A ravishing tale of the enrapturement of love and art through the eyes of women tops a new week of releases.
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As we all know, June is #Pride month, and it is one of a celebration of the triumphs and struggles of the LGBTQ community. It can also be a reflection of how far cinema has come in its depiction of gay and lesbian relationships through love, yearning, and art. There is a sense of feminism that comes along with certain stories of same-sex companionship, and rightly acclaimed director Céline Sciamma's sexy and evocative Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), is one of the very best examples. The film also successfully details the obsessions that artists have with their subjects. 

The films centers on Marianne (Noémie Merlant), a female painter who is summoned to an isolated island to paint a portrait of Heloisie (Adèle Haenel), a young woman who is forcefully engaged to be married. Marianne must find a way to create the painting without Heloisie knowing that she is doing so. However, they can't help but observe each other and fall in love, where they retreat to an all-too-brief romance filled with passion, longing, and escape from a world full of the gaze of men. 

It's incredible to find a film all about the eroticism of women made by a women, free from the usual subjectification of male filmmaking. It's also a beautiful film about art and the emotional, mental, and sometimes physical transfixion of it that can touch and overwhelm an artist, perhaps to the point of no return.

The Criterion edition contains a new conversation between Sciamma and critic Dana Stevens; new interviews with Merlant and Haenel; interview with cinematographer Claire Mathon from the 2019 Cannes Film Festival; and interview from 2019 with artist Helene Delmaire on creating the paintings seen in the film. There's also a new essay by film critic Ela Bittencourt. If you're looking for something unique and refreshing to watch during Pride or any other time, then this should definitely be apart of your collection. Read Steve Geise's review.

Other releases:

Tokyo Olympiad (Criterion): A celebrated portrait of the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, which gives equal importance to the spectators and crowds, as well as the actual competitive events. 

The Mad Fox (Arrow): In Japan, a court astrologer predicts a giant disturbance that threatens to split the realm in two. His bitter and duplicitous wife plans to have him and their adopted daughter killed. His apprentice is driven mad with grief and escapes to the countryside, where he encounters the daughter's twin. They meet a pack of ancient fox spirits that may hold the key to restoring not just the sanity of everyone involved, but also the peace of their nation.

Dream Demon (Arrow): A young woman who is about to be married has disturbing dreams about demons. When she wakes up, she finds that the demons are real and they proceed to kill people.

Strike Up the Band (Warner Archive): Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland play kids who try to raise money for a contest to help high school bands, but a sudden illness threatens to get in the way of their plans.

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