You can travel the world vicariously through memorable characters when you toss on any one of these films. Courtesy of the industry’s best location scouts and most talented directors, here are four movies that will take you around the world.
Japan: Lost in Translation (2003)
Travel vicariously to Shinjuku, in all its neon glory, and Shibuya, famous for what’s likely the busiest crossing in the world. Both Tokyo locations come alive in this evocative movie starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Lost in Translation shows how difficult it can sometimes be for Westerners to understand all the unique customs and traditions Japan is home to.
Though much of the action is set in Tokyo’s Park Hyatt, including scenes filmed in its New York Bar, the city comes to life when the lead characters venture out. From peaceful Joganji Temple to the lively karaoke bar on Inokashira Dori, viewers are treated to an insight into what a traveler might expect when they visit the bustling, energetic city.
South America: The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
The Motorcycle Diaries follows revolutionary Che Guevara and his biochemist friend, Alberto Granado. The pair’s journey begins in the sultry Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires, before heading west to the Lake District, a cinematographer’s dream. Crossing into Chile, the action moves to the colorful port city of Valparaiso with its famous funiculars, then north to the Atacama Desert, and the massive Chuquicamata copper mine near Calama. In Peru, the adventurers stroll through the historic heart of the former Inca capital of Cusco before standing awestruck at the foot of Machu Picchu, as so many travelers have done since. Via Lima, and then departing from the beaten tourist trail, the film reaches the leprosarium in San Pablo de Loreto in the Amazon a couple of hundred miles east of Iquitos.
The trip crystalized Guevara’s beliefs and set him on a path that would end in Bolivia a decade and a half later.
Italy: The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
The late Anthony Minghella opted to shoot The Talented Mr. Ripley almost entirely on location in Italy. Yet not all is what it seems. Minghella once wrote: “Film directors are thieves; magpies... They plunder landscapes, corrupt geography, redraw maps, and invent villages.”
And so it was with this movie: the fictitious resort of Mongibello is represented on the big screen by both the island of Ischia and its neighbor Procida. The latter, incidentally, also had a starring role in Il Postino. San Remo’s jazz festival is relocated to Anzio, over 400 miles south. Rome and Naples are used interchangeably. There’s never been a Dinelli’s in the Piazza di Spagna. Yet, while the team prepped, a local woman ducked under the ropes and claimed she was meeting her friend at this pop-up café, oblivious to the hidden façade of the dress shop that actually occupied the premises.
Sometimes, a location is about creating a mood, rather than a reality, something that The Talented Mr. Ripley does rather well.
India: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
Inspired by the book These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, Jaipur in Rajasthan, India, is the setting for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Dev Patel, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, and Maggie Smith sparkle. Nevertheless, it’s the Pink City and its environs that steal all the scenes as we visit the Royal Kanota Hotel (doubling for the Viceroy Club) and the haveli (townhouse) turned hotel of Ravla Khempur, a short drive from the city on the way to Udaipur. The film also takes us to the 10th-century Panna Meena Ka Kund Step Well, not far from Jaipur’s famous Amber Fort.
The ever-optimistic Sonny’s wise words give us hope as he checks in his elderly guests: “Everything will be all right in the end,” he says, “if it's not all right then it's not yet the end.”
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