What is cinema if not a journey?
A journey to another country, another life, another world- though not necessarily an alien one, since cinema possesses the power to transform our own world with greater verisimilitude than any other art. It transports us to locations we’ve never visited before and reacquaints us with already familiar ones. Here we present a little more than ten cinematic titles that might not necessarily involve travelling in their plot, but definitely present their locations attractively enough for us to start packing.
Black Orfeus (Orfeu Negro, 1959)
Marcel Camus’s adaptation of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice by way of Vinícius de Moraes’s 1956 play Orfeu da Conceição is set in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro during the Carnival. A bossa nova- filled, exuberant and at the same time elegiac celebration of love that combines social realism with fairy- tale exoticism and went on to win both the Palme d’Or in Cannes in 1959 and the Foreign Language Oscar for France in 1960.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
John McTiernan’s redo of Norman Jewison’s 1968 film with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, stars Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo and it is one of the rare remakes that not only holds up to the original but –to this writer’s humble opinion- surpasses it. As one of the sharpest and most elegant romances to ever grace the screen, it provides one of the classiest cinematic experiences of New York city, with a bonus trip to Crown’s hut in Martinique.
The Big Blue (Le Grand Bleu, 1988)
Luc Besson’s fictionalized version of the real-life friendship and rivalry between two of the world’s best free divers, Jacques Mayol and Enzo Maiorca, is set in the majestic Mediterranean waters of the Greek island of Amorgos and Sicilian town of Taormina. It might be a melancholic tale about the limits of one’s passion, but summer has rarely been photographed as immersive and inviting as here.
The James Bond films (1962- 2020)
Travelling has always been an essential element of James Bond’s cinematic adventures. In 25 films he has flown, sailed, skied, parachuted and ridden all over the globe, from Jamaica to Siberia and from Iceland to Japan. Two notable examples of Bond’s influence on the travelling industry are the popularity the Thai island Khao Phing Kan has known since its appearance as the villain’s lair in The Man With the Golden Gun (Guy Hamilton, 1974) and the establishment of an actual Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City after its enactment in the pre-title sequence of Spectre (Sam Mendes, 2015).
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Federico Fellini’s iconic ode to decadence that won the Palme d’Or and an Oscar for Piero Gherardi’s costumes, takes place in Rome, among ancient ruins of the cosmopolitan historical centre and the contemporary housing projects in the poor outskirts. Once there, you will be tempted to re-enact Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni’s seductive embrace in the cascading waters of the Fontana di Trevi.
Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Luca Guadagnino and James Ivory’s Oscar-winning adaptation of the novel by André Aciman, celebrates first love by reflecting the feelings between two young boys on the natural and architectural beauty of Northern Italian countryside. The village of Moscazzano, along with the towns of Crema and Bergamo are bathed in soft, lazy and sensual summer sunlight that nurtures the flourish of unadulterated love.
Notting Hill (1999)
One of the most beloved romantic comedies of all time, Roger Michell’s film showcases one of London’s most colorful and vibrant areas, providing the perfect setting for Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts’s romance.
Cherry Blossoms (Kirschblüten, 2008)
In this touching drama directed by Doris Dörrie, Rudi travels to Japan to visit Mount Fuji, which his wife always wanted to see before she died unexpectedly. In its heart-warming manner the film praises the importance of travel not merely as tourism but as fundamental component of one’s fulfillment.
In Bruges (2008)
When we refer to travel as an escape, we surely don’t mean what the picturesque Belgian medieval town means for Collin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy. This pair of assassins finds refuge there, far from the gangsters who are after them and while a perfect choice for a beautiful and quiet trip, Bruges proves to be relaxing for one and downright annoying for the other.
Buena Vista Social Club (1999)
Wim Wenders’s documentary follows one of the world’s most acclaimed and popular music projects, which reunites some of Cuban’s greatest musicians for a tribute to the country’s musical tradition. An uplifting film that makes for a glorious introduction to the people, the music and the culture of Cuba, providing at the same time an ideal soundtrack for a visit to the Caribbean island. It also does some travelling of its own, by following the band to its concerts in Amsterdam and New York.
film critic and historian.