Big Screen Journeys Through City, Country and Space- Time Continuum

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Have you ever found yourself inspired to travel, by a movie you were watching? 

Paris streets, surf waves, cottage-core berry-picking…rings a bell? 

I dare to say, probably. 

And even though, I assume, only a few of us actually ended up going somewhere, based on this glamorous movie spark alone, there is definitely a certain joy to making a visit to the places you saw on the big screen, an item in your adventure itinerary.

Now, however, most of us are stranded at home, with nothing but studying and/or working to do and so, more than ever, we rely on screen-provided entertainment.

Binge & Chill anyone?

I definitely widened my movie horizons during the lockdown (vol.1 and vol.2), both because I absolute love cinema and am a constant presence on my couch any day, quarantine or not, and because with not having to commute, pub-crawl, bookstore-crawl and coffee-stroll … (reminisces about autumn morning coffee strolls and cries a little while typing) … I actually had quite a lot of time to read, do yoga, cook and duh!! watch movies. 

And, like the absolute ray of sunshine that I am, I compiled a list of my favourite travel(-adjacent) movies, to keep you occupied during the long winter nights (that for some reason begin at 3pm for most of us). I divided them into several categories, based on the character of travel, and included even some uncategorizable honourable mentions, for your viewing convenience.

Ready?

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TIME TRAVEL

Back to the future (1985)

In this 1980s oscar-nominated-screenplay sci-fi classic, Marty McFly travels back in time when an experiment by his eccentric scientist friend Doc Brown goes awry. Before making his way back to present, he must make sure that his parents, then teenagers, fall in love or he will cease to exist.
Simple right?
But the story is more than just that, thanks to being built in a way, that everything that occurs in the beginning, serves as a setup for events happening later. That being said, everything eventually falls into place in a well-thought-out comedic journey, full of hilarious dialogue from the creator Robert Zemeckis – Steven Spielberg’s prodigy. 

About Time (2013)
For the romance-strikken, it is about time, to watch About Time (my pun game was much better before lockdown, or so I would like to believe). In this romantic story, Tim – played by Domhnall Gleeson – navigates time-travel, the uniqueness of living each day once, the possibilities of improving your life by rewriting your bad decisions with good ones, and the responsibilities that come with that. Watching closely (or else you will probably get lost in the plot), you run up against several chances for epiphany, on how the choices we make – good, bad or the worst – make us who we are, and in a truly butterfly effect, influence the web of endless possibilities, routes and scenarios that change, morph and adjust, and eventually make up our life. 

Midnight in Paris (2011)

In this movie, written and directed by Woody Allen, a nostalgic screenwriter on a trip to Paris, finds himself mysteriously going back to the 1920s every day at midnight – and it is everything you expect it to be! 

Being (now) a literature major, and since always a major bookworm, I was seduced by the portrayal of literati circles around the early-20th-century-literary-matriarch Gertrude Stein. During her time in Paris Gertrude Stein surrounded herself with painters, writers, singers – among them Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Matisse or  Picasso – and the main character (Gil – portrayed by Owen Wilson) happens to be doing just that. From bar-hopping with Zelda Fitzgerald, to drinking at Picasso’ s apartment, during his midnight adventures, he experiences the Paris art scene of the 1920s to its fullest. And so do you. 

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CITY TRAVEL

Roman Holiday (1953)

We all love Audrey and her charming self, and in this movie (for which she, the costumes and the screenplay all won an Academy Award), she portrays a princess out-and-about in Rome… and who doesn’t love that! Plot would be fairly romantic even without the involvement of a romantic interest – a princess tired of her tightly-scheduled life leaves the embassy and decides to live by her anonymous self, in a European city which does not know her. There is a journalist and a scandal-to-be involved, as well as some budding feelings. But whatever you end up thinking about this romance, the views of Rome are reason enough to watch this classic! 

The Before Trilogy 

(Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013))

Directed by Richard Linklater, and starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, the trilogy portrays two lovers – Jesse and Céline – at three different parts of their lives. Filmed and set at nine-year intervals, each film occupies the timeframe of a few hours. Before Sunrise is set during the night in Vienna, after Jesse, an American student travelling in Europe, convinces Céline, French student returning to University after a break, to get out of the train with him, and continue her journey the next day. They wander the streets and become romantically interested, with an almost palpable tension. They indeed part ways, as foreshadowed in the beginning of their shared adventure,  but agree to meet in the future. Before Sunset, then takes place after nine years from Vienna and is set during a few afternoon hours in Paris. Jesse is now a best-selling author, which allows him to meet Céline in Paris, during his European tour promoting a book he wrote about their Viennese encounter. Their shared lament and street walking, remains similarly magical. Before Midnight, taking place nine years after their encounter in Paris, is set in a seaside Greek village. Jesse and Céline are now a couple, and unlike city-wander or the first two films, it also offers powerful perspectives on love and marriage. The whole trilogy is full of genuine feeling and conversation, acted out against the backdrop of beautiful scenery. 

Amelie (2001)

Paris and Rome seem to be the recurring cityscape, and Amelie does not deviate from this trend. Set in Montmartre, the plot follows an eccentric, young, crème-brûlée-loving Parisienne Amelie. Inspired by the joy she felt, when returning happy memories to a young man, decides to make it her life’s mission, to make people around her happy, all while struggling with her own isolation. In terms of style, this strip focuses on using primary RGB colours, which provide the film a uniquely vibrant character. More than that, by equating certain colours with certain characters, the colour scheme provides the plot with an extra layer of meaning and visual identity. 

But in terms of travel,which is why we are all here, Amelie’s pursuits take her all over the streets of Paris, in a true modern-parisienne escapade. 

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CROSS-COUNTRY TRAVEL

The Endless Summer (1966)

In this summer-aching pic, the documentary filmmaker Bruce Brown – himself a competition-level surfer – follows surfers Michael Hynson and Robert August on an around-the-world surfing adventure. Despite being balmy California natives, the West Coast cold ocean currents make winter-month surfing impossible. Their travels take them to the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. As the title of the film and their destinations suggest, they follow surf-friendly weather all around the world – the idea being, that if one had enough time and money, it would be possible to follow summer up and down the world, thus making it endless. The dream. 

UP (2009)

Starring everyone’s favourite grumpy grandpa Carl and thousands of balloons, I absolutely had to include UP – a beloved animated adventure about endless love, loss and the adventure that is travel, and essentially, life. After losing his wife Ellie, Carl is determined to fulfil their dream of seeing the wilds of South America, by tying balloons to his house and traveling there with his whole house. The director Peter Docter originally started working on the idea for this film in 2004, plot of which was based on fantasies of escaping from life when it becomes too irritating (like it is for Carl, when the love of his life passes). He and eleven Pixar artists even spent 3 days in Venezuela, gathering research and inspiration for the film. It was ultimately released in 2009 at the Cannes Film Festival, being the first animated and 3D film to do so, and becoming the 6th highest grossing film of that year. It includes wonderfully crafted locations and creatures, which support the heart-melting story of love, and learning to care again, in an old age, and after experiencing insurmountable loss. 

Up in the Air (2009)

In a wonderfully escapist fashion, this movie focuses on restlessness, non-belonging and most importantly (and the reason to be included in my list) travel in itself. It follows a downsizer-by-profession, whose expertise in firing people, takes him all over the world – aspiring to earn ten million frequent flyer miles with American Airlines. It is largely set in airports, in airport hotels and bars, which gives it a disconnected and non-place feeling. If you manage to focus on something other than the dashing looks of George Clooney, the movie examines the philosophy of always being on the move, living hub to hub, with nothing and nobody. For me personally, as an enjoyer of tranquility of 2am airports, it shines a light of the in-between character of airports and travel itself, and how it rarely is an end in itself. 

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HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Directed by Steven Spielberg based on a story by George Lucas, and starring Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones is one of my favourite action-adventure series, and a definite adventure/wanderlust must-watch/must-include. It follows an archaeologist, fighting Nazi forces to recover the long-lost biblical artefact Ark of the Covenant, a relic said to make an army invincible. Filmed on location in La Rochelle, France, Tunisia, Hawaii and California, the movie magic actually allows us to travel to Nepal and Egypt. Having won 3 Academy Awards and a BAFTA, the movie became a classic, continually praised for its non-stop action and adventure (and Harrison Ford’s charm).

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Last but not least, Catch Me If You Can, starring America’s sweethearts Tom Hanks and Leonardo Di Caprio, takes us all over the world in a suspenseful pursuit of a master forger. The film is based on the life of Frank Abagnale, who between the ages of 15 and 22, successfully conned the world out of millions of dollars, by posing as a PanAm Airways pilot, a Louisiana lawyer, and a Georgian doctor. Story takes us around the United states, to Madrid and Montichard, France, keeping us at the edge of the seat with every con and close-call. Masterful plot by Steven Spielberg and amazing acting makes for entertaining evening plans! Promise. 

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Happy watching!

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