On today’s episode of the podcast, we discuss the incredible Céline Sciamma, her relationship to the Cannes Film Festival, and why she’s one of the best working filmmakers.
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Listen to the whole season on Women at Cannes
Today’s podcast episode on Céline Sciamma is the third of four episodes celebrating achievements of women directors at the Cannes Film Festival in Competition and beyond.
Episode 3 of the Women at Cannes podcast season: Céline Sciamma at Cannes
This episode features Editor-in-Chief Alex Heeney, Executive Editor Orla Smith, and Contributing Editor Lindsay Pugh
In 2020, we wrote an ebook called Portraits of resistance: The cinema of Céline Sciamma, after Sciamma’s fourth feature (and first Cannes Competition film), Portrait of a Lady on Fire, was released. We were surprised and delighted to see Sciamma gaining a huge following after years of being so under-appreciated for her work. So it was essential that we include an episode on Céline Sciamma for our podcast season on Women at Cannes.
We’ve loved Céline Sciamma since her very first feature, Water Lilies, in 2007 at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un certain regard section. It’s a dark and challenging film about the insidiousness of compulsory heterosexuality, and how women are conditioned to mould their behaviour to the male gaze. But strikingly, it explores those themes while never lingering on traumatic scenes of abuse. The film is almost entirely focused on its young female characters, observing the affects of the male gaze on them, largely when men aren’t around.
Sciamma has continued to produce thoughtful films about gender, sexuality, and patriarchy — from Tomboy (2011) to Girlhood (2014) to Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
Her latest feature, Petite Maman, released this year, was a bit of a departure in the sense that it’s Sciamma’s gentlest film. It’s not about social issues or trauma; it’s a sweet fairytale about the relationship between a mother and a daughter. But it’s just as profound and meaningful as the rest of her work. You can listen to our podcast on Céline Sciamma’s Petite Maman here.
Sciamma is one of the most visually and aurally precise filmmakers of her generation. She’s attuned to how sound can, as she put it to us, help the audience “share somebody else’s loneliness.” On Portrait, she even choreographed the breaths and footsteps of her actors.
She’s also a fantastic writer, and this seems to have meant that people have overlooked that she’s perhaps an even better director. At Cannes in 2019, Céline Sciamma won the Best Screenplay award for Portrait of a Lady on Fire. You can listen to our podcast on Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire here.
On this episode of the podcast, we talk about Céline Sciamma’s greatness and how the industry was slow to catch up with it. We also fall into a long conversation about the wider pattern in the film industry of recognising female writer-directors for their writing rather than their directing, and why these fields are seen as so gendered.
On this episode of the podcast: Céline Sciamma at Cannes
- Who is Céline Sciamma? (4:51)
- How Sciamma’s films have been misunderstood throughout her career (13:52)
- How Portrait of a Lady on Fire differs from Sciamma’s earlier films (19:10)
- Sciamma’s precision (32:06)
- How the film industry sees women as directors versus screenwriters (35:54)
- How has Portrait impacted Sciamma’s career going forward? (53:55)
Stay updated about the Women at Cannes season and more
The Céline Sciamma episode is just one of four in our podcast season on Women at Cannes.
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Get the Women in the Cannes Competition Box Set
Get the box set of books about women directors — Kelly Reichardt, Céline Sciamma, and Lynne Ramsay — who have screened films in the Cannes Competition to keep exploring great work by women.
- View the history of women directors at Cannes
- Read Lindsay’s review of Portraits of resistance at Woman in Revolt
- Read Alex’s interview with Sciamma’s regular editor, Julien Lacheray
- Read Alex’s in-depth conversation with the women behind Mouthpiece – Patricia Rozema, Amy Nostbakken, and Norah Sadava
- Read Alex’s interview with director Andrew Haigh on the 10th anniversary of Weekend
- Women at Cannes Ep. 1: A podcast on the history of women directors at Cannes
- Women at Cannes Ep. 2: Kelly Reichardt at Cannes 2022
- Ep. 128: Petite Maman and Céline Sciamma’s temporary utopias
- Ep. 96: Water Lilies and Jennifer’s Body: Girlhood and compulsory heterosexuality (Members Only)
- Ep. 44: Shirley and portraits of female artists — in which we discuss the new crop of films about female artists that arose in the 2010s (Members only)
- Bonus 28: Portraits of Female Artists Pt. 2 — in which we discuss films about female artists released since Portrait of a Lady on Fire