The Frida Cinema

Orange County's Year-Round Film Festival

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Queer Palm Award, Céline Sciamma’s Portrait Of A Lady on Fire is a tender tale of arrested longing and desire, playing as part of our LGBTQ Pride Month series.

Marianne is a young French artist commissioned by a noble family to paint a portrait of their daughter Héloïse in secret – Héloïse hates sitting for portraits. Sequestered to the picturesque coast of Brittany, Marianne then finds any excuse to walk with Héloïse and commit her face to memory, so the painting can be done without posing. These innocent walks quickly become romantic trysts as the pair begin to acknowledge the intimacy they share.

Nothing short of breathtaking, Portrait of A Lady on Fire is another crown jewel in Sciamma’s already burgeoning career, with imagery as dazzling and layered as the characters whose story it tells.


Sciamma has referred to Portrait of a Lady on Fire as a ‘manifesto about the female gaze.’ Few directors have embraced the idea of women’s autonomy as radically as she has; in this film, the consequences of men’s authority are omnipresent, but women take the reins, and their isolation becomes a measure of their freedom. — Ela Bittencourt,

“It might be set some 200-plus years ago but its spirit is contemporary, its urgency anchored in our current cultural moment. There is nothing staid or sepia-toned about Portrait of a Lady on Fire.”Wenlei Ma,

In this tiny world of women, the future — for Marianne as an artist, or for the two of them as a couple — holds no promise, so they cling quietly to each other, grasping love however briefly they can. Moira MacDonald, The Seattle Times