The Eye in Love

eye in love

Adèle Haenel as Héloïse, right, and Noémie Merlant as Marianne in “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” a film directed by Céline Sciamma. Credit…Neon.

This review treats several films about gay female love. The reviewer is a film maker. Noteworthy for me is her emphasis on the ocular dimension of romantic attraction. The use of “one’s self” instead of “oneself” for the reflexive pronoun is distinctive.

[The] initial deception is conveyed through the intent, searching looks Marianne casts toward Héloïse and the curious, wary glances Héloïse returns to her… To flirt as a queer person is to immerse one’s self in the act of looking and being looked at… The woman who is being looked at must look back at the woman looking at her for any real connection to take place. And the look she gives has to be one that communicates not only pleasure in being looked at, but pleasure in what she sees… The light in their eyes during stolen moments alone together… “Rafiki” captures the electric stares and ensuing relationship between a young couple… The couples in each of these films are forced by circumstance to engage in romance covertly, yet what comes through in the performances is the pleasure of being — truly — seen.

Also of note in a head-scratching way is the treatment of “Rafiki” by the authorities:

… The Kenya Film Classification Board banned the film because of its “clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law” — in May, the nation’s high court upheld laws criminalizing gay sex — though the ban was temporarily lifted last year so that it would be eligible for an Academy Award.

(Ren Jender, “‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ Understands Queer Desire,” NYTimes, 12-9-2019)

(c) 2019 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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