Hot off a widely well-received premiere this weekend — with IndieWire’s own David Ehrlich hailing it as “a painterly masterpiece” — Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” has locked down North American distribution, care of Neon and Hulu as part of their exclusive film and content output licensing agreement.
Neon will release the film this year, boasting a “traditional theatrical release” for the sumptuous period romance, and will also pursue an awards campaign in all categories. The boutique distributor reportedly beat out a number of other bidders, including Netflix.
In an official press release, Neon and Hulu brass shared, “From the moment we saw this beautiful and captivating love story, we knew we had to release this film. From Celine’s writing and directing, to the absolutely absorbing performances, we couldn’t be more excited for audiences to experience this sensationally moving piece of cinema on the big screen.”
After completing a self-described trilogy of coming-of-age films — “Water Lilies,” “Tomboy,” and “Girlhood” — Cannes regular Sciamma has shifted her interests in the female experience to her first-ever period piece. Set on an isolated island during the latter half of the eighteenth century, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” features “Heaven Will Wait” star Noémie Merlant as a young painter commissioned for a strange endeavor: to craft a portrait of young bride-to-be (Sciamma’s frequent star Adèle Haenel) without her knowing.
Intent on capturing the essence of her subject, Merlant’s Marianne grows closer to Haenel’s Héloïse in the lead-up to a wedding that doesn’t sound entirely happy, which culminates in an unexpected bond cast against dire circumstances. The film also stars Luana Bajrami and Valeria Golino.
“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” was produced by Bénédicte Couvreur and is a Lilies Film production. The deal was negotiated by Jeff Deutchman on behalf of Neon and Hulu and Fionnuala Jamison from mk2 films on behalf of the filmmakers. mk2 films is selling the world rights to the film.
Last night, Neon bowed its other big Cannes title: Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” which screened in Competition and also received critical acclaim. Neon will release it in theaters later this year.