This week’s films: PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE and GIRLHOOD

Like all cinemas, we’re currently closed because of the Covid-19 situation. Just before the crisis took hold, we’d finalised our April to June season of films and were about to announce it when, instead, we had to cancel it.

Although we can’t share the films with you on a cinema screen, each week we’re going to announce which film we had planned and let you know alternative ways you can watch it, and we’ll also be recommending another film that’s connected with the scheduled one in some way.

For the first week of the new season, our film was due to have been PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE. We’d actually intended to feature this in our January to March season but couldn’t quite make the timings work, so were delighted it was going to be the new season opener.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire | Céline Sciamma | 2019 | France | 15 | 122m | French language

In Brittany, 1760, Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), a young woman who has just left the convent. Héloïse is a reluctant bride, and Marianne is presented to her not as a portraitist, but as a companion. Marianne must observe Héloïse by day and secretly paint her by night. Growing closer as they share Héloïse’s last days of freedom, their relationship blossoms and becomes a simmering romance.

The film has received near-universal critical acclaim, and a hatful of awards. As well as being nominated for the Best Foreign Language awards at the Golden Globes and Baftas, it was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, where it became the first female-directed film ever to win the Queer Palme and also won the Best Screenplay award.

PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE is currently available to stream on Curzon Home Cinema.

HIC Recommends

For our recommended title of the week, we need look no further than Céline Sciamma’s last film as director and screenwriter, GIRLHOOD.

Girlhood | Céline Sciamma | 2014 | France | Cert 15 | 113m | French language

Oppressed by her abusive family, dead-end school prospects and the dominance of the boys in the neighbourhood, Marieme (Karidja Touré) starts a new life after meeting a group of three free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her dress code, and quits school to be accepted in the gang. She also seeks solace in the protection – and money – of an older man, but soon realises that her new lifestyle will no more give her the freedom and independence she craves than her old one. Instead, she must forge her own path.

GIRLHOOD was nominated for four French Academy César Awards and the Queer Palme, with prizes and critical acclaim at festivals from Philadephia to Stockholm. Following from the incredible promise of Sciamma’s first two films, WATER LILIES and TOMBOY, GIRLHOOD was widely seen as a coming of age not just for its characters but for Sciamma herself, announcing her as a director and screenwriter of the first rank.

HIC screened GIRLHOOD in September 2015 at Fruit, but if you missed it first time around, or fancy giving it another watch, you can rent or buy it on a range of digital platforms, or buy a DVD or Blu-Ray copy from all the usual retailers.

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