Famous movie locations that aren’t Paris or New York

November 2, 2007

Does it sometimes seem as if every big city in the movies is New York and every romantic destination Paris? Well… they are. (Hmm, I’m not entirely sure that makes total grammatical sense, but ah well. You get the point, hopefully.) According to an article in The Observer, Paris and New York have achieved such “overlord” location status on the big screen that most filmgoers feel as if they’ve been there (at some point, haven’t we? or have I just seen National Lampoon’s European Vacation too many times?), even if that is unfortunately not always the case. On the other hand, though, movie Paris = no customs! Tough call, really.

However, New York and Paris don’t have all the big screen fun, and there are other locations, sometimes forgotten in the glow of the, ah, terrible two, that have achieved a sort of mythical status as well. They too have celluloid alter egos, or impressions of the city created from a jumble of film recollections and real world experiences. These locations certainly also deserve a place in the sun – for better or, perhaps more often than is admitted, for worse.

Here are a few of these alternative location stars:

Vienna

Before Sunrise (Vienna)

Well before they awkwardly greeted each other in Paris, Jesse and Celine memorably walked the streets of Vienna in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, forever establishing Austria’s capital as the place for soulmate-at-first-site hopefuls. Hey, Ethan Hawke’s gotta sit down across from you on that train eventually, right? Vienna, and particularly its famous ferris wheel, the Reisenrad, was also featured in the Orson Welles noir classic, The Third Man, which takes place in Vienna right after World War II. You’ll never look down from the top of a ferris wheel in the same way again.

Another Vienna classic: Amadeus, about Mozart and Salieri.

Trivia: The battle fought at the beginning of the film Gladiator is mentioned as taking place at Vindobona, which is actually the early name for Vienna. It has, you know, expanded a bit since then.

For other films that take place in and around Vienna, check out this nice little review by Dustin Penn here.

The Australian Outback

Mad Max

From Rabbit-Proof Fence and The Dish, to Crocodile Dundee and the post-apocalyptic Mad Max, to my own mother’s obsessively favorite films A Town Like Alice and My Brilliant Career, Australia’s Outback seems to be a source of endless fascination for both filmmakers and filmgoers. What really goes on out there in all that space? We don’t really know, but it must be something mysterious and exciting and, of course, intriguingly rugged.

Trivia: Crocodile Dundee is the most successful Australian movie ever. I guess all I can say is… wow.

For an interesting look at the Outback’s connection to the horror movie genre, click here. Let’s just say it’s called “Things that go bump in the outback” – make of that what you will.

San Francisco

Vertigo

Sure, filmmakers have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with the New York skyline, but those sloping streets and red bridge towers have inspired their own impressive number of classic films and made San Francisco’s unique cityscape internationally admired. Really, the city has almost too many classic scenes. Scottie saving Madeleine from the waters below the Golden Gate Bridge in Vertigo. Dirty Harry finding evidence to a murder on the city’s rooftops in Dirty Harry. Benjamin Braddock driving across the Bay Bridge (the wrong way, but in any case) in The Graduate, a bridge that also appears in The Maltese Falcon. For a more contemporary scene, there’s Mia, who crashes her car into a trolley in The Princess Diaries. And, of course, not forgetting Steve McQueen’s very famous car chase through the city’s streets in Bullitt.

San Fran fun: And you thought San Francisco’s hills were just for exercise (and really frustrating bike rides), check out what else someone did with those gentle slopes.

For a more complete list of movies set in this California town, click here.

Tokyo

Lost in Translation

There’s just something so indescribably exotic about a city that is both very much like a city near you and at the same time entirely different. With its bright lights, bright colors, bright pop culture, and seemingly limitless supply of population (see trivia below), Tokyo appears to be the perfect setting in which to be both completely surrounded and entirely alone. It’s the city where Charlotte and Bob had a fleeting connection in Lost in Translation and where people struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic future (Akira), but also where James Bond (You Only Live Twice) and his modern counterpart Austin Powers (in Goldmember) both encounter, you guessed it, sumo wrestling. And, uh, there’s that Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift movie as well – of course.

Trivia: Tokyo is the largest metropolitan area in the entire world. With well over 30 million people (for some perspective: the New York City metropolitan area has about 18 million – more than 10 million less), you can certainly understand how that would be.

Antarctica and the Arctic Circle

March of the Penguins

Okay, I can probably guess what you’re thinking right now: great, more penguins. (and, well, I have a huge picture of them right above this, so why wouldn’t you be?) But really, what you should be thinking is: action and horror. I don’t know if it’s the treacherous ice, low likelihood of survival, lengthy hours of darkness, or those polar bears (because you know they mean business), or all of the above, but the arctic ice is accumulating quite the impressive collection of action/horror films: The Transformers, 30 Days of Night (it’s in Alaska, but north of the Arctic Circle, so I’m gonna go ahead and count it), Alien vs. Predator, National Treasure, The Thing, The Thing from Another World, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (Siberia, close enough). And then, yes, not to forget of course Happy Feet, March of the Penguins, Arctic Tale, The Endurance, and Eight Below (and thus also Nankyoku Monogatari). Plus Insomnia (both versions).

Trivia: One of the original horror classics of literature actually began in the Arctic Circle – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Cairo

Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood

If you’re looking for exotic mystery in a film, Cairo seems to have it in spades. And how could it not? Considering its association with over three thousand years of ancient Egyptian civilization, Cairo is quite hard to beat as a movie location. Naturally, you’ve got your obligatory pseudo-Egyptian myth horror (The Mummy), other mythologically- inspired action (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark), tourism (Death on the Nile), and just plain action (The Spy Who Loved Me). In other words, if you’re looking for an otherworldly adventure complete with historic mystique, celluloid Cairo is where you want to be.

Cairo fun: If you like what they did in that San Francisco video, see what happens when they take on the pyramids.

Transylvania

Nosferatu

Well, you can’t say that film has been easy on poor, much maligned Transylvania. For many long years, Transylvania has had to suffer numerous indignities as the place inextricably intertwined with vampires and most anything gloomy and weird (that is somehow associated with darkness and rain, in any way at all). At least they pretty much know who to blame: Bram Stoker, who decided to have his Dracula live there (despite the fact that Dracula’s inspiration, Vlad the Impaler, actually ruled over nearby Walachia, which got off easy, all things considered). Transylvania, a region in Romania, is, I’m sure, a perfectly lovely area with many attractive medieval ruins, but sadly, this image was not meant to be. Instead, it’s the spooky, rainy, shadowy, depressing, crumbling, seriously weird, and, let’s just say it, eeeevil location of Nosferatu, Young Frankenstein (and Mary Shelley’s monster wasn’t even originally, um, “born” in Transylvania), Van Helsing, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, even The Rocky Horror Picture Show (technically).

What does the real Transylvania actually look like? Check out some Flickr photos here to see. And check out the official tourism office here.

Another location with quite unfortunate film credentials? Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Apart from its seriously depressing depiction in Euro Trip, it stars in, of all things, Hostel. I think that pretty much says it all.

And, of course… London

28 Days Later

Not just the setting of one of my favorite comedy moments in film (Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament!), and thus also infernally frustrating roundabouts, London has been the setting of countless classics and, well, not-so-classics, as well as more than its fair share of apocalyptic/future films (28 Days Later, Children of Men, V for Vendetta), which is, needless to say… interesting. Although New York has faired no better, if we’re being honest (that poor Statue of Liberty, she’s been crushed by a tidal wave, destroyed by apes, buried in ice, animated by slime, used as a mutant-creating weapon and a mind wiping device, etc. etc.). The British capital, or rather, its buses, are also fantasy favorites (The Mummy Returns, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). And naturally, you can’t have a timeless city without an endless number of romantic comedies (Notting Hill, Bridget Jones, Love Actually, The Holiday). In short, the big screen London has got something for everyone.


Pride and Prejudice miniseries cheat sheet

October 20, 2007

For the beloved, and faithful, 1995 miniseries from A&E / the BBC starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

Not to be too stereotypical (but, okay, I’m definitely being stereotypical), but I assume this is mostly for guys. If guys at large are anything like the guys I know, they’d rather roll around in a bed of hot coals (like Dwight from The Office) than watch this 5 hour Jane Austen-athon. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe my boyfriend recently used the term “loathe” to describe his feelings for this miniseries – although if it wasn’t loathe, it was definitely something like detest or abhor (as a random aside, I just love the words “loathe” and “abhor” – they really sound like total hatred).

Now, as I consider the miniseries to be among my favorite movies of all time, I thought it might be a good idea to help those poor guys out there stuck with girlfriends or friends who are girls who love the film and want them to love, or at the very least watch, it too. And now… they can pretend to!

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT

(NOTE THAT THIS IS A CHEAT SHEET FOR THE 1995 MINISERIES, NOT THE BOOK)

Title

Pride and Prejudice

Useful trivia: Austen’s novel was originally entitled First Impressions.

Who?

Because things are just never that simple, there is unfortunately not just one person who is “pride” and one who is “prejudice.” Besides the two main characters, many of the other people in the story are shown as having both deep prejudices and faults of pride.

Back to those main characters though. They are Elizabeth Bennet, played by Jennifer Ehle, and Fitzwilliam Darcy (almost always referred to as Mr. Darcy), played by Colin Firth. Elizabeth is both proud and prejudiced – simply put, her pride is injured at the beginning of the story when she overhears Mr. Darcy saying that she is “only tolerable” (ouch), leading her to be prejudiced against him. Mr. Darcy, on the other hand, is accused of being proud throughout the book, and he is often prejudiced against those who are “beneath” him.

Nice and straightforward, right?

Technical details that will help verify you’ve actually seen it

Produced and released by the BBC and A&E. Never released in theaters. Written by Andrew Davies, who also wrote the movie version of Bridget Jones’s Diary.

300 minutes long (yep, that’s a solid, and to the unitiated possibly deadly, 5 hours). The miniseries is split up into 2 DVDs: the first one ends after Darcy’s proposal and Elizabeth’s rejection of it, and the second DVD starts with Darcy storming away after the rejection.

The bonus features are seriously lacking on the DVDs (no Firth or Ehle in the making-of?) so feel free to complain about them to your girlfriend.

If you can’t beat ‘em…

Like Clueless with Austen’s Emma, Bridget Jones’s Diary is essentially a modern-day update of Pride and Prejudice. The book version of Bridget Jones has more of the elements of the original Austen, but the film keeps the gist. As an added bonus, Colin Firth reprises his role as Darcy in Bridget Jones as well.

Sure, it’s still a chick flick, but a lot less painful than a 5 hour period drama with fancy language, no? Read through this cheat sheet and then watch Bridget Jones to get the general idea, and to see who that guy is (Firth) that all the girls are swooning over.

Keep in mind: Bridget Jones = Elizabeth Bennet (but without the confidence), Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) = George Wickham, and Mark Darcy = well, Mr. Darcy.

Other modern updates: Bride and Prejudice, the Bollywood take on the film starring former Miss World Aishwarya Rai as Lalita (aka, Elizabeth Bennet).

For more fun Austen connections, see my six degress of Austen post.

(Imaginary) modern day pitch

Think You’ve Got Mail mixed with Crossing Delancey combined with some of the tone from Shakespeare in Love, all set in 19th century England.

Who are all these people?

With so many people to keep track of, even those who have watched the miniseries all the way through can get confused.

Here’s a handy guide:

Pride and Prejudice character guide

(key: “Not known” – never mentioned in the film)

In PDF: Pride and Prejudice character guide

For The Republic of Pemberley’s complete list, with links to where the characters are mentioned in the novel, click here.

To see what some of the cast looks like, click here.

And where do they go?

Longbourn – where the Bennets live, a village in the area of Hertfordshire

Netherfield Park – the home that the Bingleys rent, also in Hertfordshire, near Longbourn

Meryton – a village one mile away from Longbourn, where the soldiers (including Wickham) are camped for a time

Pemberley – Darcy’s massive estate in the area of Derbyshire near the imaginary village of Lambton. Think the Chatsworth estate in England, where the scenes at Pemberley in the 2005 film with Keira Knightley were filmed. The estate, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, is thought to have perhaps been the original inspiration for Pemberley.

Rosings Park – Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s estate in Kent, in the village of Hunsford, which is where Mr. Collins is the rector.

Plot

The Bennet family of Longbourn, upper class, but not noble and poor compared to other gentry, are excited to hear that the wealthy Mr. Bingley, a single man, has rented out the nearby Netherfield Park. With five single daughters, Mrs. Bennet is desperate to get them married well, and hopes that he will marry one of them, particularly Jane, the eldest. Mr. Bingley, his sisters and his even wealthier friend Mr. Darcy soon attend a ball at Meryton. Although Bingley is liked and immediately taken with Jane, Darcy is thought to be haughty and proud. What’s more, Elizabeth and her best friend Charlotte Lucas overhear him telling Bingley that Elizabeth is not good enough for him.

Following the ball, Bingley continues to dote on Jane. Meanwhile, a cousin of the Bennets, Mr. Collins, comes to visit. A distant heir of Mr. Bennet, he will inherit the estate because Mr. Bennet has no male heirs of his own. Mr. Collins, who is obsessed with his patron, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, wants to marry one of the Bennet girls. As Jane seems to be “taken” by Mr. Bingley, he asks Elizabeth to marry him. She refuses, and he then proposes to Charlotte Lucas, who accepts him.

During all of this, Bingley has abruptly left for London and Elizabeth has met George Wickham, a handsome officer at Meryton. She is very attracted to him, and soon after they meet he tells her about his dealings with Mr. Darcy, claiming that although he was the steward of Mr. Darcy’s late father, Mr. Darcy refused to give him an inheritance that was due to him. This leads Elizabeth to now hate Mr. Darcy.

Elizabeth goes to visit Charlotte at Hunsford and, while there, meets Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who, it turns out, is Mr. Darcy’s aunt. He comes to visit, with his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Eventually, Darcy visits her at the Collins’s house when she is alone and proposes to her. She flat out refuses him and he storms away. However, the next day, he hands her a letter that explains how Wickham actually tried to elope with his 15-year-old sister, Georgiana, for her money, and that he did advise Bingley not to marry Jane, but he thought it was for the best.

Elizabeth returns home to Longbourn, shortly before Lydia leaves, invited to follow the soldiers (who are leaving Meryton) with her friend Mrs. Foster, the wife of the Colonel. Elizabeth leaves again for a trip through Derbyshire with the Gardiners. While there, they visit Pemberley and run into Darcy (who they think is away). He behaves very politely, without any sign of pride, and Elizabeth is very surprised and impressed by this behavior (and his extensive grounds). She also meets his sister, Georgiana, whom she likes very much.

Unfortunately, a letter soon arrives from Jane that says Lydia has run away with Wickham (very scandalous at the time, as they were not married). Elizabeth reveals this to Darcy, who is shocked and leaves, and Elizabeth thinks she will never see him again, since he hates Wickham and would never want to be associated with a family tied to him.

Elizabeth returns home to find the family in disarray. Her father has gone to London to try and find Lydia and Wickham. However, after her father has returned without luck, a letter arrives from the Gardiners, who live in London, saying that the two have been found and they will get married. Mr. Bennet thinks Mr. Gardiner paid Wickham to marry Lydia, but Elizabeth learns from Mrs. Gardiner that it was actually Mr. Darcy who found the couple and paid Wickham off.

Lydia returns to Longbourn to visit her family with Wickham, happily married (or in denial) and gloating that she has a husband, and then departs again almost immediately. Soon after, Bingley returns to Netherfield and begins to see Jane again. Darcy comes with him, but pays no attention to Elizabeth. Bingley eventually proposes to Jane and, of course, she accepts. Mrs. Bennet is overjoyed.

Shortly after the proposal, Lady Catherine comes to pay a visit and tells Elizabeth that she has heard that Mr. Darcy, her nephew, is going to marry Elizabeth. She wants Elizabeth to promise she won’t marry him. Elizabeth refuses. Lady Catherine communicates this to Mr. Darcy and, thinking Elizabeth might have changed her mind about him (since she refused not to marry him, get it?), Darcy stops by Longbourn with Bingley and he and Elizabeth end up going for a walk. He tells her he still wants to marry her and she accepts. They get married, and both couples live happily ever after (far away from Mrs. Bennet and Lydia).

Famous Scene

Something to do with a pond and a man’s shirt…

The wet shirt that launched a thousand sighs (and newspaper cover articles), this classic scene from the miniseries features Firth as Darcy plunging into a small pond on his estate, Pemberley, on his way back to his house, presumably to help him clear his mind of Elizabeth (this is after she’s already rejected him). Unaware that Elizabeth is currently visiting Pemberley, he walks back to his house soaking wet, in nothing but a wet white shirt and pants. They meet-cute on the grounds of his estate – he’s shocked and flustered, she’s horrified and embarrassed – and the rest is movie history.

The following scenes at Pemberley in general are crucial (and well-worn on my DVD), as a sort of turning point where Elizabeth starts falling for Darcy and he starts realizing she might not hate him anymore.

Crucial Quote

“She is tolerable I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me.”

Darcy’s (unfortunately overheard) comment about Elizabeth, early on in the book. Remember, if you can’t say something nice about the girl you end up wanting to marry, probably best not to expect a great response to your marriage proposal. For instance:

“You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner…

…I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed upon to marry!”

What Elizabeth says in response to Darcy’s first proposal. I think it means “no.” (of course, we all know what phrases like “the last man in the world I would ever…” eventually lead to at the end of a film)

Themes

Love, marriage, social class, status, vanity, family, money, reputation, and (I have to say it) pride and prejudice.

Gifts for the girl who loves P&P

Some other Austen films: Pride and Prejudice (2005), Emma, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Clueless, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Becoming Jane, Bride and Prejudice, Jane Austen Book Club

Other period romances: Possession (with Jennifer Ehle), Jane Eyre, Ever After, An Ideal Husband, Much Ado About Nothing

Other Colin Firth films: The Importance of Being Earnest, Shakespeare in Love, Bridget Jones and the Edge of Reason (and, of course, Bridget Jones’s Diary), Love Actually, The English Patient, Girl with a Pearl Earring, What a Girl Wants

Classy Conversation Starters

I was watching Pride and Prejudice last night, and…

You know, my friends often tell me that I’m a modern day Mr. Darcy.


Six degrees of separation: Jane Austen in the movies

September 4, 2007

Starting to feel like Jane Austen is everywhere lately? Well, you’re not entirely wrong. All roads do seem to lead to Jane Austen these days. Here’s my (somewhat spooky?) six degrees of separation explanation:

One of the most popular adaptations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is the 1995 BBC/A&E miniseries starring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett. However, Jennifer Ehle also starred in a slightly more scandalous (but still period) romance called Possession, with Jeremy Northam as her lover. Northam in turn played Mr. Knightley’s voice of reason to Gwyneth Paltrow’s matchmaking Emma in the 1996 big screen version of Jane Austen’s Emma (the inspiration for the film Clueless).

Paltrow, who, as it happens, is also one of the stars of the film Possession, is perhaps best known for bringing the theme of star-crossed lovers to new Oscar-worthy heights in Shakespeare in Love. However, making sure her love is star-crossed in Shakespeare in Love is Colin Firth (Lord Wessex), the British actor who famously introduced a dripping wet Mr. Darcy to a contemporary audience in that very same Pride and Prejudice miniseries with Jennifer Ehle.

Firth also played Mr. Darcy in a modern Pride and Prejudice adaptation, Bridget Jones’s Diary. Playing Mr. Wickham (or rather, Daniel Cleaver) to his Darcy in Bridget Jones was Hugh Grant, who also jilted women (but much more elegantly) in Emma Thompson’s Oscar-winning film adaptation of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

Hugh Grant’s part does not end there, however. Grant became famous for playing a confused but lovable character in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Playing an important love interest in Four Weddings was Anna Chancellor (Henrietta), an actress who also played the formidable Caroline Bingley in, again, Jennifer Ehle’s Pride and Prejudice miniseries. Anna Chancellor, who, probably unsurprisingly, is actually related to the real Jane Austen, is also related to Crispin Bonham-Carter (and thus, Helena Bonham-Carter as well, his cousin), who played Anna Chancellor’s brother, Mr. Bingley, in that omnipresent Pride and Prejudice miniseries.

Crispin Bonhman-Carter also had a small role in Bridget Jones’s Diary, although unfortunately many of his scenes were cut. Appearing in Bridget Jones as well was Gemma Jones, who played the mother in both Bridget Jones and another Hugh Grant film, the aforementioned Sense and Sensibility. Gemma Jones can also be seen as Madam Pomfrey in Harry Potter, which additionally stars Julie Walters as Mrs. Weasley. Julie Walters, incidentally, takes on the role of Mrs. Austen, the “real” Mrs. Bennett, in Becoming Jane, in which James McAvoy and Anne Hathaway (as Jane Austen) play, of course, star-crossed lovers.

James McAvoy can also be seen in the upcoming adaptation of Ian McEwan’s book Atonement (Dec. 7 in the US, go here for Empire’s review of the film), in which he stars alongside Keira Knightley. Keira Knightley herself got her first Oscar nomination for playing Elizabeth Bennett in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Joe Wright (the director of Atonement). Knightley, in turn, also starred in Love Actually with Colin Firth (Pride and Prejudice) and three stars of Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant – Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman are also in Harry Potter together, alongside Julie Walters and Gemma Jones).

Back to Hugh Grant again then, the Brit plays an enamored bookstore owner in the romantic comedy Notting Hill, which also features Hugh Bonneville as the down on his luck Bernie. However, Bonneville can also be seen in a 1999 film adaptation of Austen’s Mansfield Park, which additionally stars James Purefoy. Purefoy himself seems to favor period dialogue, as evidenced in HBO’s Rome, where he played Marc Antony. Also starring in Rome was Ciaran Hinds, as Julius Caesar.

Besides doomed leaders, Hinds also does well portraying Austen men, as can be seen in the 1995 movie version of Austen’s Persuasion, in which he plays Capt. Wentworth, the former suitor of Anne Elliott’s main character. Persuasion also starred Samuel West as Mr. Elliot who, surprise surprise, also appears in Notting Hill with Bonneville and Grant as a, well, backside-obsessed actor.

Not to be forgotten, however, is Embeth Davidtz, who was also featured in Mansfield Park alongside Bonneville as the beautiful but scheming Mary Crawford. Davidtz additionally took on the role of romantic foil in Bridget Jones’s Diary, as Natasha. What’s more, the Bridget Jones movies were in fact written by Andrew Davies, who, it turns out, is the mastermind writer behind, yes, the Pride and Prejudice miniseries with Jennifer Ehle.