Last weekend, a hankering for popcorn and the urge to escape 90-degree temperatures drew me to the movie theater. Previews flashed, the protagonist triumphed, credits rolled and suddenly I found myself planning a trip to Paris.
The movie was "Midnight in Paris," Woody Allen's latest romantic comedy. It's a love story about an American traveler and his devotion to Paris — more specifically, Paris in the rain ... during the 1920s. Aside from the fantastical time traveling bits of the movie, most of "Midnight in Paris" could pass for a film sponsored by the French tourism board. Allen highlights the city with heaps of gorgeous Parisian imagery: miles of sidewalk cafes, street vendors selling relics of the past, impossibly thin women in elegant clothes, the Eiffel Tower glittering in the night. Even Carla Bruni makes an appearance.
I haven't been to Paris. It was on my places-to-see-in-the-next-decade list, somewhere behind Yosemite National Park and Mongolia. But now? Paris has edged past Mongolia, and soon I'll be drawing disapproving stares with my lapsed college French and biting into baguettes alongside Carla Bruni.
I can think of a few other movies that tend to have a transformative effect on the hearts and travel plans of audiences. Here are some of my favorites:
'Lost in Translation'
Romance grows from a shared case of culture shock in Sofia Coppola's Japanese gem. Tokyo, the star of this film, comes across as a mysterious, moody, otherworldly destination, and the movie is rich with beautiful footage of the city.
'Under the Tuscan Sun'
Long before Julia Roberts patched an on-screen split with a trio of trips in "Eat, Pray, Love," Diane Lane played a divorcee who took a two-week tour of Tuscany and, on a whim, decided to drop everything and move to the Boot. Sure, "Under the Tuscan Sun" is an unabashed feel-good "chick flick" (if that term makes you cringe, I'm with you), but the shots of dazzling Tuscan landscapes and charming but crumbling Italian villas make this movie worth the two hours.
The movie that kicked off Audrey Hepburn's dynamo career is, in my opinion, the quintessential traveler's flick. In "Roman Holiday," Hepburn plays Princess Anne, who breaks from the royal life on tour of Rome and stumbles into an unexpected romance. Although the movie came out in 1953, a traveler in Rome today will find that few of the ancient sites featured in film have changed since "Roman Holiday" was in theaters.
In all seriousness, if that crazy planet were real, I'd want to travel there (but on a less creepy space station). Fun fact: The futuristic earth city featured in the movie is actually Tokyo.
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