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Films as a travelogue


Gabe
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I've thought of about three different ways to create this thread, because I'll go with this one as an interesting spin on things, hopefully it doesn't die on its backside :)

 

Sometimes a film has a setting that makes the location(s) almost a character in the story and, as a result, can also feel like a bit of an exploration of wherever it's set. What got me thinking about this is that I'm watching Push again in the background (a 2009 Chris Evans film that I just find really comfortable like a good pair of slippers - I only watched it a few weeks ago!) and the aspects of the city match the situation the leads find themselves in - it's grimey, it's chaotic and busy and there's not a lot of breathing room. But being filmed on location means that it also gives a nice feeling the Hong Kong itself and there's something nice about exploring the back alleys and less-lavish locations.

 

Another favourite is The International, a Clive Owen and Naomi Watts thriller. I really like the film anyway, but what is really striking is the architecture that features in the film. There's beautiful mountains, great views of Milan central station, the Audi (I think it's Audi? Or maybe BMW) main building in Germany, even New York gets a look in. Each location is given plenty of attention and lots of slow camera pans. There's a good extra on the Bluray about the subject, which was also really interesting.

 

My final shout-out is to World War Z. Unlike the above, it wasn't filmed on location, but the globe-trotting representation of Israel in particular becomes a key character in itself.

 

All three of these films make me feel like I'm getting a bit of a tour around certain places and it really helps increase my immersion in the films. (I also happen to really like all three and have watched them repeatedly).

 

So, any films you feel like give you a bit of a cultural experience?

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There is a Martin Sheen film called The Way which is about walking the Camino del Santiago, a traditional Catholic religious pilgrimage.  Filmed on the walk itself, it forms a big part of the movie and makes the idea of the walk look very interesting.

 

(It's not a bad movie either, well worth a look.  I think it was on Netflix or Amazon Prime.)

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Another Hong Kong one but I whenever I watch Chunking Express (In The Mood For Love as well) I feel completely transported to its settings. Christopher Doyle's camera work really makes you feel the pulse of the city, and the city feels as much a character as it does a setting.

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This is one of my favourite things about movies, and why I tend to seek out and enjoy dramas that are essentially made for domestic audiences. They give a more genuine representation of the lives of people around the world just in their day to day details, and I get to spent time in the locations. I'm especially big on Japanese and Indian cinema for this. The films of Satyajit Ray, Yasujiro Ozu and Hirokazu Kore-eda in particular tend to be fairly straightforward stories (about complex individuals), but the sense of time and place is powerful and I feel like I've expanded my cultural awareness at least a little.

 

Like Bazjam I do have a longtime attraction to Hong Kong cinema, especially from the 80s and 90s. It seemed so wildly chaotic, colourful and somehow strange with its mishmash of language and culture. I would have loved to spend time there pre-handover.

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Miami Vice (2006) is superb for this, it’s 100% location photography and you genuinely feel like you’ve been to each of them. The 10-20 minute sequence where Crockett rides a speed boat to Cuba for mojitos is one of my  favourite in any film, I almost resent the actual plot getting in the way of the scenery.

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