One thing I genuinely hate about culture journalism: Our insufferable need to rank things. I get it. I like ranking the things I see or hear or drink. But I often feel like too large a percentage of my peers and my competitors watch movies with the sole directive of talking about what is “best” in a given year, instead of talking about why these things actually fucking matter. I’ve probably yakked about this before. I’m sure I have. It still irritates me.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire, the new film from Céline Sciamma, is a prime reason why this compulsion irritates me: Year-end award hullabaloo has, in a way, made a victim of the picture, because Neon ran it for a week in NY/LA* to ensure its qualifications for awards season, a bunch of people wrote about how great the film is (and it is great), and now it’s hitting theaters for an actual theatrical run, and, I dunno, it kinda feels like a movie out of place and out of time. I hate that.
Regardless: This is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen about what it means to see another human being, and how we see people, and it emanates genuine warmth and passion, and it’s beautifully made, and so on. The studio and the film criticism apparatus (which is really in too many ways a cost-free marketing wing for studios) might’ve done Sciamma’s work a disservice, but you can do it a service by going to see it in theaters.
You can also do me a service by reading my piece, which is available for your eyeballs over at The Week.
*Do not get me started on NY/LA.
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