In 1770, Brittany, France, a young female painter, Marianne, is hired to paint a wedding portrait of a noblewoman. But the assignment is unusual: she must make the painting in secret because the bride, Héloïse, is reluctant to marry. Héloïse and her mother live in an isolated seaside estate, and her mother explains to the young painter that the portrait is necessary to entice the bridegroom, who lives in Milan. Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) is arrestingly beautiful, and I can imagine many movies that might begin with the groom’s approving gaze upon receiving Héloïse’s portrait, kicking off a storyline that would take viewers into Milanese high society. But Portrait of a Lady on Fire instead focuses on the two weeks that Héloïse and Marianne spend together in a nearly empty house by the sea (the bridegroom in question never appears on screen). Written and directed by French filmmaker Céline Sciamma, and with a nearly all-female cast, Portrait is both a romantic story of two people falling in love, and a sensitive depiction of a female painter’s life and artistic practice in the eighteenth century.
From its joyous opening dance sequence to its melancholy ending, Birds of Passage (Pájaros de verano) is unlike any movie you have seen about illegal drug trafficking. It’s a gangster movie that downplays violence, looks closely at attempts at peacemaking, and is centered on the fate of a mother and a daughter. Set in Colombia between the late 1960s and early 1980s, the film is told from the perspective of a Wayúu family who live in the arid, northern region of the country and become significant exporters of marijuana to the U.S. Their success in the drug trade brings wealth, but it also pulls them into a world of violence and greed that engulfs and divides their family and their community.
In 1992, at age 19, novelist Sandi Tan wrote and starred in Shirkers, a feature-length road movie shot on the streets of Singapore. The title was inspired by Tan’s idea that in life, there were people who were neither movers nor shakers, but shirkers—those who evade responsibility and duty, escaping the confines of society. It starred Tan as S., a murderer and kidnapper on a mysterious mission to save children. One of Tan’s points of inspiration was J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. The plot didn’t matter as much as the mood, which Tan cultivated through carefully chosen locations, props, costumes, and music. Tan hired a friend to compose a soundtrack on his electric guitar, and hand-made many of her props, including a colorful board game that S. uses to plot her kidnappings. S.’s costume was a pink sailor shirt and blue knee-length shorts; she carried an old-fashioned camera on a strap, as well as a leather suitcase. “When I was eighteen,” Tan explains, “I thought you found freedom by building worlds inside your head.”
The tiger was showing off, pacing alongside his swimming pond, looking as if he might jump in at any moment. His long tailed curled inquisitively, like a housecat’s. At least twenty people held up phones to capture the moment on video. My five-year-old son stood by the glass divider, watching, rapt. Several feet away, holding my seven-month-old baby girl, I observed the tiger’s pixelated clones prowling across tiny screens.
In fairy tales, the forest is a dark, dangerous place, populated by wolves and other menacing creatures, but for Thomasin and her father, Will, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the forest is a respite, a place of quiet and calm. More than that, it’s their home. For several years, they’ve been camping in Forest Park, an enormous urban park on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. Although they have gone undetected all this time, they still do practice drills in case they should be discovered. In an early scene, Will critiques his daughter’s hiding place, telling her that her socks give her away. Actually, it’s Thom’s eyes that betray her: you can see her loneliness and her restlessness. As a younger kid, 24-7 camping may have appealed to her, but when we meet Thom, she is a young teen, full of curiosity about the outside world and eager to meet new people. The only thing that keeps her in the woods is her deep love and sympathy for her father.
By HANNAH GERSEN
We show up at Mayflower Beach at ten one August morning, and the parking attendant, a tanned teenaged girl in a gold tee shirt, tells us we’re too late, the lot is full. To ensure a spot, it’s best to come around 8:00 a.m., or even earlier.
Slate has a new travel blog celebrating strange and beautiful places around the world. Recent entries include a tunnel of flowers, a theater that has been remodeled into a bookstore, and a movie theater that floats in a lagoon.
In New York City, where I live, I’ve always been fascinated by the High Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that links the Bronx and Manhattan. It’s been closed for decades but will open up next summer. The New York Times profiles the High Bridge neighborhood, in light of these upcoming changes.
This time of year, I’m always hoping for one last snowstorm or cold snap. I love winter, and am always sad to see it go. To give the season a proper goodbye, these links celebrate all things cold things cold and snowy:
Last weekend I stopped by Film Biz Recycling, a thrift store that sells props previously used on the sets of TV shows, movies, and plays. It’s a place I’ve been curious about for years, having heard of vintage treasures to be found amidst its workaday prop items. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and upon entering was somewhat jarred by the hodge-podge of items, arranged with no particular logic. A toy piano stood next to a stodgy-looking coffee table, which sat beneath a shelf of Cuban cigar boxes and a framed copy of the rules of the board game “The Game of Life”. Across from this tableau, on the other side of the aisle, were an egg swivel chair (like the one in Sleepless in Seattle), a wooden 1950s baby blue high chair, and slew of fake flowers.
Although I usually use this column to highlight exemplary writing about place, this month I’d like to bring attention to some of the many beautiful photo essays I’ve stumbled across in the past few months. With the popularity of slide shows on the web, it’s easy to take extraordinary photography for granted, but every once in a while, when I stop to think about what I am able witness on my laptop screen, I am blown away. An extreme example is Slate’s recent round-up of the year’s best images in astronomy. Here you’ll find photos from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter interspersed with earth-bound shots of the Northern Lights.