Mark Whelan Film Picks and Essays

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire & Departures

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Film Picks by Mark: Portrait Of A Lady On Fire & Departures

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (2019) [122m] *** D: Celine Sciamma,
C: Noemie Merlant
, Adele Haenel, Luana Bajrami, Valeria Golino, Armande
Boulanger
, Guy Delemarche, Clement Bouyssou.

A painter (a statuesque Merlant) is commissioned to portrait a young
woman (Haenel
, equally good ) betrothed to an aristocrat on a secluded
island near Brittany
(France) during the 18th century. What begins as
customary procedure, quickly advances into
a stalwart correlation between
the two.

Sumptuously staged period piece works best as a romance with
astonishing Morbihan and Bretagne imagery commemorating the
proceedings. The persuasive quality of film
s entrancing leads outweigh its
protracted
(and ultimately foreseeable) script. Beautifully photographed by
Claire Mathon. Written by the director.


Original French Title: Portrait de la jeune fille en feu literally translates
to “Portrait Of A Young Girl On Fire.”

Departures (2008) [131m] **** D: Yojiro Takita. C: Masahiro Motoki,
Ryoko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kimiko Yo, Kazuko Yoshiyuki.

Following the dissolution of his orchestra, a cellist (Motoki) finds work
performing traditional funeral rites with
an eccentric employer (Yamazaki,
in a tailor made role). At first he is appalled and embarrassed by the
practice
even keeping it secret from his wife (Hirouse)but eventually
appreciates the dignity and cathartic closure of the custom.

Blatantly sentimental to be sure, but a resourceful and affectionate
examination of mortal fragility that packs a wallop. Non
slacker ensemble
make splendid use of Kundo Koyami
s original, and often humorous,
screenplay reinforced by a terrific Joe Hisaishi score. A marvelous film of
feeling and elegance that justly received the Oscar for Best Foreign
Language Film.

Original Japanese Title: Okuribito.

RATING GUIDE:
**** Excellent
*** Good

* * Average
* Poor

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