2. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s narrative, cinematography, performances and score are so beautifully understated and nuanced that it’s really something to behold as it all smoulders into this raging wildfire of a movie.
Céline Sciamma has been a champion for gender and sexual identity throughout her career, but this time a mixture of an 18th century setting, a small cast and a remote location seem to have allowed her space in which to tell this story in a way that she just couldn’t with any of her previous work.
It has landscapes and intimate moments that, as much as I hate how cliché this is going to sound given the film’s plot, are like paintings.
There’s a scene in which the two main characters accompany a friend for an abortion. At first one of them turns away unable to watch, but she’s urged to change her mind. The film then shows us the event from their point of view; a female gaze in the room and behind the camera. The way in which it’s portrayed with such empathy and warmth is like a punch to the gut; a revelation really.
It’s easy to forget that those types of scene are usually filmed by male directors who seem to focus on the medical and sterile. It’s all just so breathtaking and beautiful to see and to hear and to feel.
Bong Joon Ho’s diatribe on social class, injustice and greed is the most perfect film. You may be thinking that perfection isn’t a scale, but I would disagree, because this is some otherworldly, next level, made-a-deal-with-the-devil level of perfection.
It’s the kind of film that has a playful confidence which crosses cultural borders and into the mainstream whilst still being thoughtful and challenging. It’s really only made possible by a Director who is masterful enough to balance Parasite’s flawless back and forth between satirical comedy, horror, thriller and neorealist cautionary tale. It’s also one of the more striking portrayals of Korea on film even if it’s confining us to lanes, alleys, the insides of cars and rooms – it confines us like the characters.
A scene in which the Kim family escape the Park house in the rain and make their way through streets, alleys and stairwells down into their basement apartment is the perfect visual metaphor of being swallowed, digested through the stomach of the city and thrown out like waste.
Parasite is basically ‘Eat the Rich: the Movie’, which is glorious for a snowflake socialist like me. I don’t think any film in 2020 can match its assured wit and social conscience, and there’s probably only a handful of films in recent memory that reach the same heights.
Recommended for you: 10 Best Films 2019 – Jason Lithgo
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