PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE
PORTRAIT DE LA JEUNE FILLE EN FEU
2019, Neon, 121 min, France, Dir: Céline Sciamma

Winner of the Queer Palm and the Best Screenwriting Award at Cannes, PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE unfolds on a remote island off the coast of 18th-century Brittany. There, young painter Marianne is commissioned to create a portrait of reluctant bride-to-be Héloïse. She must do so in secret, however, posing as a lady’s companion because Héloïse refuses to sit for a portrait. As their hours together lengthen, Héloïse kindles a new flame in Marianne - one that time and circumstance will conspire to extinguish. This vividly shot and quietly turbulent film finds new possibilities in the age-old vein of forbidden love.


LES MISÉRABLES
2019, Amazon Studios, 102 min, France, Dir: Ladj Ly

In the Paris suburb where Victor Hugo set part of his 19th-century magnum opus, French filmmaker Ladj Ly tells an all-too-contemporary tale of crime and community. Inspired by the 2005 riots that set cars ablaze across France, Ly focuses his lens on a trio of police officers whose unorthodox tactics bring them into conflict with local youth. Heightening the tension are a drone’s probing eye and the threat that at any moment racial tensions will flare too high to be contained. Winner of the Prix du Jury at 2019’s Cannes Film Festival, LES MISÉRABLES leverages documentary-style rawness and pulse-quickening momentum to stake its claim as an accomplished thriller concerned with social inequity and its corrosive effect on the rule of law.


THE FAREWELL
2019, A24, 100 min, USA, Dir: Lulu Wang

In this funny, uplifting tale based on an actual lie, Chinese-born, U.S.-raised Billi (Awkwafina) reluctantly returns to Changchun when she learns that her beloved grandmother, Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen), has been given mere weeks to live. While Billi’s family knows this, they have decided not to tell Nai Nai herself; to assure her happiness, they gather under the joyful guise of an expedited wedding, uniting family members scattered among new homes abroad. As Billi navigates a minefield of family expectations and proprieties, she finds there’s a lot to celebrate: a chance to rediscover the country she left as a child, her grandmother’s wondrous spirit, and the ties that keep on binding even when so much goes unspoken.


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