Archive for August, 2009

travelling in movies

August 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Lately we have been contemplating, again, on the possibility of uprooting our lives here and moving somewhere else. Call it boredom, or maybe the spirits of our nomadic ancestors calling us; the simple fact is we want to travel. But our idea of travelling is not the typical type where you book a flight, join a tour group, ride along a bus for a few days/weeks then fly back home and go back to real life. No, ours is quite different. We dream of living in new places, emerging ourselves in cultures, interacting with the community, eating their food; to not be a tourist and live a life of a traveller. We’d like to take in everything and enjoy living a new life once in every few years. To not settle, as long as we can.

Of course we can’t do that now, responsibilities forbid us, but in the right time we will again. While waiting for that chance to hop onto another adventure, I revert to my usual means of escape. Listed below are my favorite movies about travelling, the way I dream of doing it.

1. Motorcyle Diaries (2004)
Based on the memoir of 23-year-old Ernesto “Che” Guevarra, recounting his journey across South America with trusty friend Alberto Granado in their dirty and old motorcyle. The film, like his memoir, pinpoints how the young Che was transformed by the roads of South America from the idealist medical student into the revolutionary that he is now known for. A critically-acclaimed movie for a variety of valid reasons, I love how it was able to capture the true essence being on the road and how we are changed by what we see and experience.

2. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
The film that placed Alfonso Cuaron in the hearts and minds of many, and probably what inspired all the road trip movies to-date. A coming of age story about 2 teenage boys and their quest to find this perfect secluded beach to impress an older woman. There is probably too much sex and reference to sex than what is ideal, but what is a road trip but a reckless abandon of logic and sense; at least the most eventful ones are.

3. Roman Holiday (1953)
One of my favorite romantic comedies that introduced Audrey Hepburn to the world. Playing a royal princess fed up with the demands of her crown, she decides to live a life among mere mortals and tour Rome on her own while pretending to be someone she is not with the help of a new haircut. As formulaic as all romantic comedies go, she encounters an American reporter who may or may not reveal her secret and eventually falls in love with her. What I like about this classic is how it told the idea of how briefly forgetting who we really are, even for a day or two, may sometimes be the best and truest way to enjoy a vacation from life. One of the most famous scene in the movie is visiting the “Mouth of Truth” where Hepburn gave a loud scream not knowing that his partner pulled a prank on her.

4. Lost in Translation (2003)
If you saw Sophia Coppola in Godfather 3 and hated her as much as I did, you know it would take a jewel of a film for you like anything she would be involved in. Thankfully, Lost in Translation is just that. Set in busy Tokyo, it is a story about a wife left alone in apartment rooms and hotel lobbies by her busy husband and an actor having difficulty making a whiskey commercial doomed with a lousy translator. Really a movie about loneliness and confusion, it also best exemplifies the weight of culture shock and best shows how it feels like to be a fish out of the water. It is both sad and sweet, mostly because of
the writing but I think the combination of Johansson and Murray is the perfect metaphor to a wonderful script.

5. Before Sunset (2004)
Before Sunset, the movie that I’ve probably seen 10thousand times, and its prequel Before Sunrise would be to me, what my dream-life would be like if it was a romantic comedy. Well they are not actually comedies in the strictest sense but to me they are because of the constant struggle of the romance plot amidst the beauty of the place, the habitual lack of enough time and the unyielding circumstance both characters are always in. A boy meets girl story set in the most beautiful of European cities in a perfect summer weather to me would be the best GroundHog day if I would ever have to choose one. How much I love this movie is beyond my narrative abilities. But focusing on the topic of travel, what I particularly like about this film is how it shows popular tourist destinations without the touristy angles, well except for the boy meets girl in a foreign country plot. Most of the scenes tried its best to stay away from the Eiffel Towers and the Louves which tells us there is more to a city than its famous destinations. Before Sunset, like most French films, portrayed Paris how a Parisian would see it: the cafes, the bookstores, the parks, the long walks, the summer breeze. Seeing these Linklater classics makes you want to buy a EuroTrail ticket and skip one European city after another, in hopes of finding that perfection.

6. the Bourne series
Probably one of the most successful action/adventure movie series, thanks to the brilliant character created by Ludlum decades ago. Part of the action sequence in these films is how events are occuring simultaneously fast in different parts of the world, with Bourne hoping from one train station or airport to another in the pursuit of the elusive truth that he is looking for. A lot of espionage films in the past have used the multi-city plots, old Bond films come to mind. What the Bourne films have to their advantage is their perfect timing in this day and age of instant communication and information that made, literally the whole world, one big cityscape for the movie. Despite the brief time new places are showcased, you feel the distinctiveness of each and how it contributes to the general adventure that is a Bourne film.

I wanted to include Boyle’s and di Caprio’s The Beach (2001) but I couldn’t. It’s a matter of principle. First “the beach” was a fictitious place, they had to destroy a marine sanctuary to create it. Second it was too unreal to be good. I once read the best fiction is 90% true; which in this case, the movie’s lack of truthfulness created its downfall. If I would have to choose a movie about going away and leaving everything behind, I will choose Into the Wild (2007) by Sean Pean. But this one is too sad, I had trouble sleeping after watching it. Also I find his philosophy of travelling disturbing and a bit senseless as the movie’s ending told.

I also thought of including movies that best used the cities they were shooting, but figured that would constitute a different list.