The mandate of travel shows is to present places, cuisine, people and culture in a tantalising manner, enough to make you call up your travel agent and make your bookings to the chosen destination pronto. So, when a regular commercial film with its central and sub plots, histrionics, music and dramatic situations, actually ends up promoting a place, it becomes a kind of bonus. Also, as movie buffs will tell you, the chosen location then acquires a special place in the heart because it gets connected to the character in the film or the story line. Now, who can forget Rick's cafÃ© in Casablanca. A mythical saloon from the 1942 classic, it captured Morocco in all its historical splendour and war torn regalia. Today a real cafÃ© stands there by the same name, as a tribute to the film.
Almost all motion pictures from Hollywood will show you downtown Los Angeles skyline, Sunset Strip, Hollywood Boulevard, Marina Del Rey, Malibu or Rodeo Drive so when you actually go there and see them in brick and mortar there is a feeling of elation and comfort - of having perhaps been there, seen it. Also, as in my case, when I went to LA for the first time, I knew I just had to see these places.
Now, here is a quick, top-of-the-mind recall list which brings alive places in such a vivid manner that you feel you have cruised, sailed or trapezed through them. Apart from the stories they tell and the acting they display, the places itself acquire a unique place in your heart. So you can either put them on your must see list in the coming year or you could order one of them to keep you company before 2011 runs out.
The Motorcycle Diaries
From a travel perspective the movie actually takes you on a round trip of Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Miami and back to Argentina. Add to this is the fact that it has one helluva great story too. It is based on the book by the same name and has been on the New York bestseller list for years now. A true story of two medical students embarking on a five-month motorcycle trip across South America, using their medical training to volunteer for a remote leper colony along the Amazon river, it dips into the personal journals of Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara. Seeing some of the expansive shots of the Andes, Atacama Desert and the banks of Peru in the Amazon River Basin, there are moments in the film when you actually feel that you are riding pillion on the motorcycle, witnessing first hand, a piece of history. Made in 2004, the movie was directed by Walter Salles, starring Gael Garcia Barnal as Che.
This is a thinking person's experience of the great American experience. In a very profound way it tells you about what the country is, what it stands for and what it has come to symbolise, without being touristy. Part of many elective courses in American schools and colleges, the movie, again is based on a book by the same name
Set in the 1950's in Connecticut, it is about an American couple who are filled with passion and excitement early in their lives. But when they get married, have kids, and move into their suburban neighborhood, they are consumed by the monotony of daily life. Their jobs fail to fulfill them and their lives leave a lot to be aspired for. It is not what they expect or want. For many, their American lifestyle would seem idyllic but for them that seems to have got washed away. They hatch a wild plan to leave it all behind and move to Paris. But then life gets in the way, and the plan falls apart. They become what they hate, another typical American couple with a lost dreams. Released in 2008, it was directed by Sam Mendes with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as the lead pair. The movie has been much talked about. It was also nominated for three Oscars. So, in many ways it is a film about America and what it means to be an American.
If Rome got associated with all things romantic, one wonders if Roman Holiday had anything to do with it. Audrey Hepburn played the role of a sheltered princess who manages to escape her handlers to experience the city on her own terms. She runs into the dashing Gregory Peck, a cunning American reporter who at first shelters her but then as is inevitable, falls in love wither but not before taking you around Rome. The image of the couple driving on a Vespa through the city have stayed in people' s minds for years.
Released in 1953, it was directed by William Wyler and starred Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.
Lawrence of Arabia
One of the most dramatic stories of the war, the film offered many their first glimpse of the Arabian desert. A period film it captured the Arab revolt against the Turks during World War I. Whether it is the attire, language, customs or family traditions, the viewer gets a good hard look at what it meant to be part of the Arab world. As a story of a young and eccentric British army officer who heads into the Arabian desert to gather intelligence about the Arab revolt against Turkey during World War I, it takes you through some very dramatic moments, besides 'showing' you some great views of the excavations of the Mesopotamian sites and Damascus.
The 1962 film was directed by David Lean and it had an all male cast of Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn.
Seven Years in Tibet
Another movie based on the book, it is a memoir that traces the experience of an Austrian mountaineer who heads out to conquer a Himalayan mountain in 1939. After getting captured and sent to a prison camp, he ends up breaking out with another man and sneaking into the holy Tibetan city of Lhasa. He befriends the young Dalai Lama just as the Chinese attempt to invade Tibet by force. Both men represent different worlds and yet grow to like and learn from each other. As you settle down and watch Pitt's evolution, Tibet too grows on you and so do its majestic mountains, monasteries, palaces and ofcourse the holy city of Lhasa,
The 1997 film was directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and had Brad Pitt playing the lead.
Vicky Christina Barcelona
A breezy bohemian 2008 romantic-comic-dramatic tale, the film apart from showing you the most romantic and intriguing parts of Barcelona has some great performances which keep you amused as you go on a roller coaster ride. The story of two girl friends who take a vacation to Barcelona, where they meet a mysterious painter, who asks them to spend the summer with him, it has all the trappings of what you would want from a leisurely European vacation which has a liberal sprinkling of music, art, culture, food and romance too. The movie is quite entertaining, and how travel can open you up to new experiences.
Directed by Woody Allen, it stars Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. Interestingly today, there are special Vicky Christina Barcelona tours that show you Barcelona through Woody Allen's eyes, taking you on a Spanish culinary, wine and cultural tour of the city namely Las Ramblas, the Gothic quarters and the Gaudi masterpieces.
Encounters at the End of the World
A movie that is actually a documentary film, it has earned itself a place on most 'Must see' film lists because of the immense amount of research that has guided the extremely sensitive and incisive depiction of what must not have been an easy to shoot 'encounter', providing in the process some never-seen-before shots of the Antartica. The film stays with you also because it is an incredibly beautiful and funny movie about the people and animals who live in this lesser known part of the world. There are lingering shots of the South Pole, Mount Erebus, Furmarole ice caves and Kaiser's dives with some great ice diving foot