'Lady on Fire' by director Celine Sciamma sets Cannes 2019 ablaze

'Portrait of a Lady on Fire', a tender story of an 18th-century painter who falls in love with her muse, has set Cannes 2019 ablaze, training the film festival's gaze on the work of women artists as the movie industry grapples with issues of gender equality.

Adele Haenel

 The film premiered on Sunday and is one of only four films competing for the Palme d'Or at this year's festival that is directed by a woman, out of 21 entrants.

It tells the story of an artist hired to paint the wedding portrait of a young aristocrat who is reluctant to be married off to a man she has never met. She refuses to sit for it, forcing the painter to pose as a companion and study her surreptitiously whilst working in secret.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Director Celine Sciamma

Celine Sciamma in a news conference said, "Obviously there's a political dimension as in any film, and I am upfront about it, but the film isn't a political tract.''

Her new film draws warm praise from critics.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Noemie Merlant

At the premiere, Noemie Merlant said, "It's a very contemporary, very modern story, to find out what sort of an artist we are as women, learning to have confidence in ourselves, to listen to ourselves, to be curious.''

The film has an all-female cast headed up by Adele Haenel and Noemie Merlant, who told a news conference on Monday that behind the corsets and the candlelight, the film has a particular resonance today.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Noemie Merlant and Adele Haenel

The film, 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire' is a tender story of an 18th century painter who falls in love with her muse, has set Cannes 2019 ablaze, training the film festival's gaze on the work of women artists as the movie industry grapples with issues of gender equality.

It tells the story of an artist hired to paint the wedding portrait of a young aristocrat who is reluctant to be married off to a man she has never met. She refuses to sit for it, forcing the painter to pose as a companion and study her surreptitiously whilst working in secret.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Director Celine Sciamma with the film's cast members

The film marks a return to the Croisette for Sciamma, whose first film 'Water Lilies' was screened at the festival in the secondary 'Un Certain Regard' category in 2007.

The film also tackles the highly-charged issue of abortion as debates rage from Alabama to Argentina.

(Photograph:Reuters)