By Stephen Farber, Special to the Los Angeles Times
‘Cairo Time’ will make you want to hop a plane to Egypt. Here are 10 more movies that inspire wanderlust.
Ruba Nadda’s " Cairo Time,” which just opened, is a “Brief Encounter"-style love story about an American woman who meets an Egyptian man while her husband is away on business. Their subdued romance blossoms against the bustling backdrop of Cairo. While the film features fine performances by Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig, its greatest achievement is its evocation of a Middle Eastern city that few Westerners have seen in such loving detail.
Movies have often excelled at transporting us to exotic locales and immersing us in the sensations of cities we may not have visited or tantalizing us with a fresh glimpse of cities we think we know. Another movie opening this month, Ryan Murphy‘s “Eat Pray Love,” based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir, aims to envelop audiences in the sights and sounds of Italy, India and Bali, where Gilbert felt her life rejuvenated.
Ever since movies started shooting on location, this has been a primary appeal of the medium. “Casablanca” may have evoked the North African casbah through clever art direction, but it was all shot on the Warners backlot. The picture continues to stir romantic fantasies but no longer inspires a sense of wanderlust. (Colm Hogan / Associated Press)
Everyone remembers the car chase from “Bullitt” or perhaps the Chinatown of “Flower Drum Song.” But no movie captured the allure of the City by the Bay better than Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1958 masterpiece. Hitchcock filmed famous landmarks — the Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, Ernie’s restaurant — in a subjective, lyrical style, to heighten the growing romantic obsession that James Stewart feels toward Kim Novak, whom he tracks around the city. The moody color cinematography by Robert Burks draws the audience into the hero’s increasingly mad love, which is inextricably tied to the city where the romance unfolds. (Universal City Studios)
Many films have focused on the Big Apple’s jangling energy (“The French Connection”) or its wistful romanticism (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”), but none has matched the enthusiastic ardor contained in Woody Allen‘s elegant 1979 rhapsody to his favorite city. The script (by Allen and Marshall Brickman) is incisive in exposing the swirl of neurotic relationships seemingly endemic to Manhattan. This satirical edge is juxtaposed with the more transcendent possibilities embodied in Gordon Willis’ lustrous, black-and white images of the city’s skyscrapers and parks, all set to the lush musical themes of the quintessential New York composer, George Gershwin. (United Artists)
Paris has been photographed as lovingly and as frequently as Manhattan, if not more so. Stanley Donen directed two piquant Parisian adventures, “Charade” and “Funny Face,” both starring Audrey Hepburn. But it’s probably “Funny Face” (1957) that crystallized the magic of the City of Light. The enchanting musical number “Bonjour Paris,” when Hepburn, Fred Astaire (playing a Richard Avedon-like photographer) and Kay Thompson (as a brittle magazine editor) first explore the city, remains a touchstone. (File Photo)
“Dirty Pretty things,” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as an immigrant from Nigeria to the United Kingdom, is part of Avon library’s film series on immigration. (Laurie Sparham / Miramax Films)
In the ‘50s, American moviegoers swooned at their first glimpses of the Eternal City in “Roman Holiday” and “Three Coins in the Fountain.” But no movie caught the changing spirit of Rome better than Federico Fellini‘s 1960 phantasmagoria. From the first images of a religious statue carried by helicopter over St. Peter’s Square, the film sweeps us into the secularized, decadent city that epitomized the Swinging ‘60s. The film surveyed Eurotrash cruising down the Via Veneto and even added a word to our lexicon, when it introduced the celebrity-stalking photographer named Paparazzo. Viewers watching Fellini’s hedonistic epic probably wanted to dive into the Trevi Fountain along with Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni. (File Photo)
David Lean‘s “Summertime” inspired lots of tourists who dreamed that they, like Katharine Hepburn, might find love along the Grand Canal. But an even more vivid Venetian adventure is Nicolas Roeg‘s romantic thriller from 1973, which captures the more sinister side of one of the most photogenic cities on the globe. The film takes place in Venice in winter, so it has a different flavor from “Summertime.” Along with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, you find yourself more and more disoriented by the city’s maze-like byways and empty cathedrals. The nightmarish yet oddly beautiful conclusion suggests that Venice, like many mysterious cities, is one that you explore at your own risk. (Paramount Pictures)
While other films have been set in the Middle Eastern gateway, only one is etched in most moviegoers’ memories: Jules Dassin‘s stylish caper from 1964. Many adventure films since then have paid homage to the film’s signature scene of the robbery of the Topkapi Palace by an acrobat who descends from the roof. In addition, Dassin’s skillful depiction of the city’s bazaars and minarets did wonders for the tourist trade. Legions decided to visit Istanbul after crossing the Bosporus with Melina Mercouri, Maximilian Schell and Oscar winner Peter Ustinov. (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)
Although much of Sofia Coppola‘s 2003 movie takes place in an impersonal hotel where two lonely Americans — Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson — spend a lot of sleepless nights, the film discovers the city’s tranquility as well as its chaos. Shots of the glittering Tokyo skyline from hotel windows capture the way most visitors first experience a foreign city. As the characters venture outside and navigate teeming streets ablaze with electronic billboards, Coppola makes the place increasingly seductive. (Sofia Coppolla)
This Oscar winner from 1959 helped to cement American audiences’ infatuation with foreign films, and it heralded the increasingly international character of movies. The director, Marcel Camus, was French, and he filmed in Portuguese with a largely Brazilian cast that included leading lady Marpessa Dawn, who was born in Pittsburgh. Set against the backdrop of the city’s breathtaking harbor, this modern reworking of the Orpheus myth engulfed audiences in the sensual tenor — at once liberating and potentially tragic — of carnival in Rio. (File Photo)
From “Double Indemnity” to “Collateral,” L.A. has inspired our most gifted directors. But I have a personal reason for choosing John Boorman‘s 1967 thriller. I saw the film just before moving to Los Angeles from the Midwest, and the movie helped to solidify my decision to relocate. While the San Francisco of “Vertigo” has a languorous, 19th century flavor, the Los Angeles of “Point Blank” comes across as the quintessential city of the late 20th century: sprawling, spankingly clean and sunlit, yet always threatening to explode in violence. Both Boorman and screenwriter Alexander Jacobs were British, and that may help to explain why they managed to see the city with fresh eyes. The ranch houses, car lots, cemeteries on sylvan hillsides, and vast storm drains may not compare to the architectural wonders of Paris, London or Rome, but the City of Angels emerges as an eerily beautiful Tomorrowland. (MGM)