Cinema is transportive. It takes you many places, real and imagined, and acquaints you with characters that are familiar and strange. Films, especially ones shot on-location rather than on a sound-stage, grant you glimpses of people’s everyday lives, their cultures and subcultures, their language, traditions, food, politics, religion, and aspirations—all through a complex storytelling apparatus beyond the camera and what’s in front of it (I’m referring to style choices as well as writing, framing, and editing scenes). In much the same way that reading throughout the centuries has ignited passions and spurred imaginations by providing escapes to faraway lands, movies, in little more than one hundred years, have brought worlds closer, too. As a film historian, I am interested in how place and identity are represented on-screen for audiences at home and abroad. How do these cinematic images inform what we know of others and, perhaps more crucially, of ourselves?
But as anyone will tell you, it is not enough to read books and watch movies to understand the world and your place in it. Travel, so the wisdom goes, is essential to producing a well-rounded individual, particularly someone who can emphasize with others. Although I have lived and traveled abroad and have even lived in this country’s two most populous cities, I don’t have as many stamps in my passport or frequent flyer miles to my name as I would like. And while I don’t have the money to bankroll more excursions in the near future, I can reflect on where I have been already.
So, without further ado, I’d like to present my Movie Travel Diary, a series of Jump Cuts to be published daily from August 26 through September 1, 2012 (if all goes according to plan). Each day, I will write about a film or group of films set in a city that I have spent some amount of time in (whether for a couple of days, a week or so, or even a year or two). Each film discussed presents the city in a way that I recognize from my own personal experience, since cities and films are mutable objects that are what they are because of what each of us brings to them (I’m not talking about toothbrushes and buckets of popcorn).
As always, I invite you to share your impressions of cities that you have visited, first through film and then in person. Once your feet were on the ground, how did the metropolises compare to the expectations you had going in, based your previous viewing of films set in those cities?
Movie Travel Diary entries:
Tuesday, August 28th: Edinburgh
Thursday, August 30th: Los Angeles
Friday, August 31st: New York City