SINGAPORE - Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (R21, 120 minutes, now showing at The Projector, 4.5 stars) is the period drama that breaks the rules. "Lush" is a word often used to describe dramas about wigged aristocrats cavorting in rococo ballrooms but this French work is so trimmed to the bone as to be almost austere.
It is the late 1700s and Marianne (Noemie Merlant) is an art teacher. A student asks her about a painting of hers, of a standing young woman with a dress that looks to have caught fire. In a flashback, Marianne is in a remote manor by the sea, sent there to do a portrait of Heloise (Adele Haenel), the headstrong daughter of The Countess (Valeria Golino), the woman who has commissioned Marianne.