Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Vampire Owl: Have you read The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James?

Vampire Bat: Yes, I had read that novel as a part of writing an assignment during my English Language and Literature post graduation.

Vampire Owl: What would adding some fire to the title mean?

Vampire Bat: I don’t think that this has any relation with it. This one is actually French. This is not Korean or Chinese for a change. Let this burn bright!

Vampire Owl: So, the portrait is not really the portrait that one might be led to believe it is. I would still choose a Polaroid camera instead.

Vampire Bat: It was about a young woman who inhered a large amount of money, and becoming prey to some scheming.

Vampire Owl: I have heard about the author, but most of the people I know haven’t.

Vampire Bat: Well, he hasn’t been writing the kind of works, the vampires have been reading, and so its natural not to know.

Vampire Owl: So, you are now choosing French.

Vampire Bat: Yes, we have been going further international these days.

[Gets a vancho cake and three cups of masala tea].

What is the movie about? :: The story is set at some time period during the end of the late eighteenth century. Marianne (Noemie Merlant) is a young painter who takes painting classes to her eager students. As she makes them paint her portrait, one of her students asks her about a special painting from her, which Marianne used to call Portrait de la jeune fille en feu. It takes us back to the origins of that particular painting, and the same has a close relationship with Marianne’s past and her emotional side. Once upon a time, Marianne was called to an isolated island in Brittany in the west of France, to paint a portrait of a young woman named Heloise (Adele Haenel) by her mother The Countess (Valeria Golino). Marianne struggles to reach there, as she herself, and the canvas falls into the sea on her way.

So, what happens with the events here? :: There, she meets Sophie (Luana Bajrami), a beautiful young girl who works as the servant to the Countess and her daughter. They become good friends, and comes to know that Heloise was at the convent, and was forced to come back to marry a wealthy Italian nobeleman because her sister had died, supposed to have jumped off a cliff. Now, this portrait is to be sent to that possible husband of Heloise as soon as possible. The Countess says that her daughter was not ready to pose in front of any painter, and so Marianne will have to pretend that she was someone who had come to accompany her during her walks, to get rid of her boredom. It seemed to be the only way for her, and Marianne started being friends with Heloise who arrived there. She also started observing Heloise enough to paint her in parts. But there will be more than just a painting that we will be having here.

The defence of Portrait of a Lady on Fire :: There is some beautiful serenity that runs through this movie and its silence which serves more than anything else, as the main actresses really make a lovely impact with their expressions and body language itself, getting us immersed into this tale set in the late eighteenth century Brittany. The setting is incredibly beautiful, making you wish to make a visit, and one wonders where this particular island stands in history. This environment created as part of this movie is a charming one, but it is also a very simple one – it is not that usually colourful world from a grand historical past as we usually see in historical drama, action or thriller movies. We go through the eyes of an artist who is not just a painter, but someone with intimate feelings which she seems to have gained in connection to her work on the canvas – it reflects there as much as it shows up in her soul.

The claws of flaw :: Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a very slow movie, as you might have expected it from the talks about it, and also by what you have further read about the same. The movie also has some moments which are not utilized the best, especially related to the artistic work, the painting. The focus could have been more on that painting, and the artists feelings should have been above the person’s intimacy. There is also a lot of time taken in the beginning, and in between, which is felt more because of the movie’s slow pace. There could have also been some more characters to provide support, and this movie’s viewpoints are rather limited when you look at it. There is a lot of silence and a good number of dialogues, but there is less happening for the people who are looking for that as the thing which defines a movie – after all, this is close to being what you call the award movie in this part of the world. Two hours were not needed for this movie for sure.

Performers of the soul :: Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a movie nominated for Golden Palm, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, where it lost to the Korean Oscar Winner, Parasite, and so you know that this one had to score in its performances more than anything else. It has to be noted that all the main characters in this movie are female, and you see some men for that amount of time which can be better counted using seconds rather than minutes. The movie is that much dependent on its female characters, especially the two main ladies, with more to be added from a third young character, and a little more from the much older character who plays the mother. I haven’t watched many French movies, but Noemie Merlant is the one lovely actress who has come up with a perfect performance here which cannot be matched. She has been very expressive, and very much enchanting as the painter, closely followed by Adele Haenel who manages almost the same. Luana Bajrami, the next important character is done well, and Valeria Golino is there for less time, and does fine.

How it finishes :: The movie is not to be confused with The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, as the title only has the addition of fire in the end, which might have been enough to prove its point. But people are more or less attracted into feeling that this is the same thing, and only the fact that this is not a British or American movie making them feel that this is something else. But the movie is not a lesser classic when you look at it, as it feels like an old-fashioned throughout its run. It is a slow-moving thing of charm, which makes sure that the moments are there to stay. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is more or less a feeling set in that historical period, and it has that delicate beauty with the realistic touch which is to stay for the beauty of tranquility, and not for what we usually remember a movie for. Portrait of a Lady on Fire takes you through the different, classic path.

Release date: 18th September 2019
Running time: 120 minutes
Directed by: Celine Sciamma
Starring: Noemie Merlant, Adele Haenel, Luana Bajrami, Valeria Golino

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Clint

What is the movie about? :: Edmund Thomas Clint (Master Alok) is the only son of MT Joseph (Unni Mukundan) and Chinnamma Joseph (Rima Kallingal), and was named after the famous Hollywood actor Clint Eastwood, as his parents were his fan at that time. While his mother remained a housewife, his father has been working as an upper division clerk with the government. He loved colours so much that he started painting at a very small age. His work impressed his parents as well as people around, but their decision to accept the boy’s decision to not attend school anymore was considered, and often declared as radical and foolish by so many of his well-wishers. He has been known to be a curious boy who wished to travel and see things, reflecting them on his canvas, and when he couldn’t, he used the descriptions by the people around him and the books given by his father to come up with an idea of how things could really be, as he combined them with his creativity and sharp intellect.

So, what happens with the events to follow in this biopic? :: It is one of Joseph’s friends Mohanan (Vinay Forrt) who appreciates his work the most, among those outside his family. It is when he is getting more and more attention, and even while getting selected to participate in a number of competitions, that tragedy strikes. His doctor and nephrologist Joseph Abraham (Joy Mathew) lets his parents know the terrible thing, that his kidneys are failing, and there might not be many days left before him – they can only try, according to him. Shattered by this news, Clint’s parents’ life won’t be the same again. But they try their best to keep their child happy during his last days. But fate always wins, and there is no chance to stop him – but can they delay the inevitable as much as they can, and bring some hope? There is the certainty of more being painted by the boy, even when being so close to death.

The defence of Clint :: Showing the life of a child prodigy who is known to have drawn over twenty five thousand paintings during his short life of a little less than seven years, here is a certain amount of inspiration in store with this movie, and we get close to life of the little genius on the big screen. Telling the tale of a naturally skilled person, this one nicely explores how he had been doing what was best at. There are some nice visuals and a few memorable moments to go with the same. The setting is very good, and helps to make the movie better. Even though the child is at the centre, there are some familiar names who get to show their skills in the movie too. The best thing about this movie is that it hasn’t complicated things that much when it could have done the same, and it never does concentrate that much on the disease when the usual tendency to do the same. Without that, the movie provides us a pretty good journey through the life of the famous child prodigy.

The claws of flaw :: There is the movie going so close to melodrama, and some moments just seem to be added to bring the cliche stuff in a predictable manner rather than anything else. We also find some dialogues rather too much for the child, and the sequence involving Salim Kumar is rather strange instead of being funny – it is the worst point of this flick. It even has a barber who looks on like a butcher. The movie also drags in between, which is rather strange, because they could have kept things going just with the paintings, and children playing; also those dialogues between father and son, which could have been the highlights of this movie, goes rather restricted, despite the promise shown in the beginning. There seems to be limitations around here, with the story and its moments, for there was scope to bring in more and more, which could have made this movie a big, colourful thing just like the real child in his real life is known to be. There was the need for quality.

Performers of the soul :: It is never that easy to get a biopic related to the life of one special child with amazing skills at a very young age. It was essential to find the right cast, and Master Alok, despite providing us with a few doubts in the beginning, does a fine reflection of the character he plays here. The existential questions do provide him the chance to take it further, as life after death, one’s existence as stars after that, and many other come to him. He has his best moments after getting the disease though, and goes throughout without struggling at any point. Baby Akshara is good support to him, even though some dialogues given to her just go strange, as with Alok on a few occasions, but latter has better control. Children and their world, if given more life with the colours on the canvas reflected into them, would have provided these two something further cute to work with though.

Further performers of the soul :: It is only after the movie gets to come up with a talk with the real life parents of Clint that we get into the movie. After we get in there, it is Unni Mukundan and Rima Kallingal, especially the latter, who gets to work through the pillars of this movie, and hold it together for its protagonist to manage. Both of them provide us with what seems to be an honest attempt at making this work, and their presence makes some of those problems in this movie to be forgotten. They are really good right from the beginning, and they excel at the emotional sequences. There is not that much revealed about their characters, but the two rightly portray what is needed here. The next big role here goes to Vinay Forrt, who is not far behind in his portrayal of the friend and well-wisher. Renji Panicker comes in and contributes in a good, smaller role, but Joy Mathew is indeed the next noticeable one, as he does his doctor act with no problems.

How it finishes :: One can be sure that this is a good attempt at making a biopic on the life of our own child prodigy. But there will still be doubts if this couldn’t be any better. With four movies being there in the theatres from last ten days, including Thrissivaperoor Kliptham, Varnyathil Aashanka, Sarvopari Palakkaran and Chunkzz, along with the leftover movies Basheerinte Premalekhanam, Sunday Holiday, Kadam Katha and Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, Clint is going to have a tough time in the less number of theatres it is being screened. With some more, attention, this movie could have competed well, and even won against most of these titles – there can be more from the life of a child prodigy who has gone on to become someone whom we all know. As of now, as this movie stands, it becomes also our opportunity to check this movie, and feel the strength of the life of a little master of colours – it is where this movie has our attention, making an attempt not to be forgotten. I watched this one because I wanted to know, and I wished to see everything alive – don’t you too, for such a skilled child?

Release date: 11th August 2017
Running time: 138 minutes
Directed by: Harikumar
Starring: Unni Mukundan, Rima Kallingal, Master Alok, Vinay Forrt, Joy Mathew, Renji Panicker, Baby Akshara, Salim Kumar, KPAC Lalitha

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Best Offer

thebestoffer (2)

Vampire Owl :: It is such a gloomy Diwali this year. Nothing to be done. I expect this Halloween to be bad too.

Vampire Bat :: I had my own celebrations though.

Vampire Owl :: Really? And you didn’t call me? After all, I am your only officially undead friend.

Vampire Bat :: It was not arranged by me. There was lightning and almost everything in the living room seemed to be enjoying fireworks. Only the stabilizer is working now.

Vampire Owl :: I would need that stabilizer. I can connect it to my owlifier and hope that it works without loss of energy.

Vampire Bat :: Do you know that you often seem to talk like Victor Frankenstein?

Vampire Owl :: Absolutely not. See, you are giving a wrong idea about owlification to the society. This is for their own good, so that they don’t have to face a third world war and a possible extinction.

Vampire Bat :: Have you even read about a world war?

Vampire Owl :: No. Why should I? I read no evil, hear no evil, see no evil. I just create evil – I am an evil mastermind.

Vampire Bat :: I have a movie for you then.

[Grabs of a cup of tea].

What is it about? :: The Best Offer is set in a world of art, where an old expert in art Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) runs an auction house. He is not a loved person around, as he has very few people around him who likes his way of behaviour and most of his life is spent with the desire to illegally gain the possession of very rare and highly valuable pieces of art, unmarried. He is appointed by a young heiress, Claire Ibbetson (Sylvia Hoeks), who asks for his help to auction off a huge collection of antiques and grand pieces of art which has been passed onto her by the family lines. But as Claire suffer from “a strange disease” as the people she knows tell him, or a certain amount of agoraphobia as she keeps herself confined to a room inside the huge mansion. As curiosity keeps getting into him, he hides himself inside the mansion one day to find that she is young and beautiful and sees her in a compromising position. He is immediately attracted to her beauty, and as they come close to each other, there will be the course of something else that will be set in motion.

The defence of The Best Offer :: Here is a movie which never ceases to enchant you with its visual splendour provided by art rather than anything else. There is a lot of beauty in the way in which the whole thing is narrated. Here is a quote which you can take home — “Emotions are like work of art. They can be forged; they seem just like the original but they are forgery. Everything can be fake: joy, pain, hate, illness, recovery… even love” – it tells a lot about the movie and how it connects art and man. Then there is question of truth and happiness, the things that are not found even in the real thing. The performances are splendid too, especially from the two leading characters. It is indeed a fresh take on the mystery genre, and a different entry to the world of romantic thrillers. There is also the abstinence from the usual formula that can be seen on a number of occasions. One can’t also deny the existence of so many angles from which this movie can be viewed from. I see the hollowness of humanity which can create huge artistic forgeries of the mind.

Positives and negatives :: The movie is slow, and it has lots of art associated with it, not really appealing to everyone. It is easy to find such people who don’t care about antiquity in this part of the world as we see our own centuries old monuments being vandalized by people or even those who claim to be lovers to write their names. There is almost no love for art in our lands, not even to the courses related to the same. So, this movie not releasing her was never a surprise, and people are going to find fault with its setting anyway. There will also be people wondering how such a thing in the movie is even possible with the two – but human mind is indeed strange, and emotions are pretty much ridiculous even for the most skilled ones – that much one has to be aware of. Yes, there are some characters who should have developed further and are lost in this seductive battle between the two main characters. It does give a little bit of too much clue to the viewer’s liking too early, but not everyone will pick them.

Performers of the soul :: Geoffrey Rush steals the show right from the beginning, and even by a bigger margin by the end. We don’t have a character here whom we can easily sympathize with, but here the man has completely made us feel for the character and the emotions that he has, even as he is not that much of a positive character, or someone we can cheer for. He is not a hero here, but we are given a chance to admire him as a tragic hero with this performance, and here he is elevated to the status of someone like Doctor Faustus who has the power of knowledge and yet not the wisdom to make things work in the right way. There is a certain beauty about it. Sylvia Hoeks is stunning here, not just by looks, but with a performance which seems to make her a modern day Rapunzel, caught in the hopelessness of the never-ending loneliness in the middle of nowhere, with no escape and less hair, but still extremely beautiful and having all the traits of her gorgeous and mysterious character.

Soul exploration :: Even as the movie’s focus as well as its background are on art and valuable antiques, its soul is on the gorgeous enigma who is at the centre of everything. She is the one to determine the fate of more than one character in the movie, and the universe which was rather static until then, revolves around her and turns it into a romantic mystery and then into a kind of thriller with the world no longer following a pattern. The life based on art becomes the life based on one lady who is like living art in beauty, and the protagonist soon finds his Helen of Troy and seems to wonder like Faustus if it “Was this the face that launched a thousand ships, And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?” – there comes the radical change in the world, and it sets things in motion, as the centre is clearly the mystery that the mysterious beauty provides, and the protagonist comes directly under the influence of this centre, the soul which changes things.

How it finishes :: The Best Offer is lost to most of our people, and it is not even known to most of our viewers. Another fact is that it might not appeal to everyone with a universe of art and a mystery that is built around the same which is hard to connect for a lot of people belonging to the modern world. As it tells the story of two people who are separated from the usual known world in different ways, the focus is on the search of love and the vanity in the hope that there will be the appearance of such a feeling which is so hard to achieve in this world of materialism. The movie talks about the world of love just as the illusion of art, and forgery is possible with ease, even as the best of forgeries might require skills, and it will take more than just the expertise to look through the fake emotions of love and desire, and that should be an objective vision which should be completely absent when the illusion begins to spread through one’s eyes.

Release date: 1st January 2013
Running time: 124 minutes
Directed by: Giuseppe Tornatore
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Sylvia Hoeks, Jim Sturgess, Liya Kebede, Donald Sutherland, Philip Jackson, Dermot Crowley, Kiruna Stamell

thebestoffer

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.