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PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

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PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

* * * ½ (Joyce)

* * * (Don)

(Exotic, erotic French film)

The French sure do know how to make exotic, erotic love stories.

Noemie Meriant plays Heloise, a young woman whose mother has given her away to a man from Milan on the condition that he approve of her portrait. It is the 18th century, and this is how things were done back then.

Heloise will not agree to pose for her portrait, so Marianne (Adele Haenel) is hired on the guise of being her walking partner, forced to paint her alone by memory in a dark, candlelit room at night. The two women slowly develop a friendship and understanding and eventually fall in love.

But this is a French movie, and the French are famous for unrequited love and tragedy. They are also good at creating exotic and erotic moods. Waves crash against the shore, candles flicker in the night, and long, passionate moments go on forever.

Director Celine Sciamma has created a most somber mood that plays out slowly – ever so slowly –for two hours and 20 minutes, leading to an interesting conclusion.

Rated R, with sex, nudity and a side story involving abortion. At the Avon.

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