Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Director: Céline Sciamma Run Time: 120 min. Release Year: 2019 Language: French
Starring: Adèle Haenel, Christel Baras, Luàna Bajrami, Noémie Merlant, Valeria Golino
Screened in June 2023
The eruption of Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire at 30th place, the highest new entry in the poll, mirrors the meteoric rise of a director who had just begun her career at the time of the last poll. Her first three films, Water Lilies (2007), Tomboy (2011) and Girlhood (2014), did much to redefine coming-of-age narratives, opening new horizons on youth and queer desire while manifesting a coherent stylistic vision, characterised notably by pareddown visuals. As a result, Sciamma, an alumna of the prestigious Paris film school La Fémis, swiftly rose to the pantheon of French auteur cinema (she scripts all her films).
In 1952, the Sight and Sound team had the novel idea of asking critics to name the greatest films of all time. The tradition became decennial, increasing in size and prestige as the decades passed. The Sight and Sound poll is now a major bellwether of critical opinion on cinema and this year’s edition (its eighth) is the largest ever, with 1,639 participating critics, programmers, curators, archivists and academics each submitting their top ten ballot.
Sight & Sound (2022) – #30