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Written by: Sam Fragoso on April 17, 2012

April 17, 2012 | 21 comments | Featured, Old Format

Inquisition Tuesday: Movie Cities

In many films, it’s the setting and atmosphere that instantly captures our minds and attention. Sometimes we see a location on screen we’ve lived in, been to, or want to go to.

But what makes a great cinematic city? Is it the culture, the history, the people, the construction of a place? Perhaps it’s all of the above.

A city like Paris is one of the most consistently beautiful locations to be portrayed on screen (Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris being the most recent example). But just because one auteur can create an homage to a city, doesn’t mean that same city can’t be conveyed poorly (think of the horrid 2009 picture 2 Days In Paris).

Point being, some cities are structurally more cinematic and, well, breathtaking. But what I find interesting is that different filmmakers can depict the same city so differently.

For example, Woody Allen’s heavily romanticized, jazzy, vivacious imagination of New York City in Manhattan, is the antithesis of Martin Scorsese’s brutal, ominous Taxi Driver, which is also set in the city that never sleeps.

With all those thoughts and ideas mentioned, I hope I’ve contributed to the conversation.

Now, here’s my grand, everlasting inquisition:

What’s your favorite city portrayed in the movies, and is there a film that opened your senses to that city?


There are 21 comments for this post.

  1. Nikhat on April 17, 2012 8:17 am

    My favourite city in films is definitely Paris. I sort of liked the more down-to-earth portrayal of Paris in 2 days in Paris. Everything from eccentricity of Moulin Rouge!, the supercool aspects of the French New Wave, the instant sense of romance from Casablanca, the love of films in the air like in The Dreamers, the varied stories of Paris je t’aime, and then most recently the magic in Midnight in Paris- Paris is definitely my dream city and even more so when shown and talked about in films.

  2. Sam Fragoso on April 17, 2012 8:30 am

    I agree that there’s a lot of romance in Casablanca – but I don’t think it comes from the setting – which is constant dread for those stranded till their death – but from Bogart and Bergman.

    Definitely understand your sentiments on Midnight In Paris such a love letter to the City of Lights.

  3. SJHoneywell on April 17, 2012 9:27 am

    I’m with Nikhat here in loving the cinematic Paris, but I’m a Chicago guy at heart, and it will always be my favorite movie town.

  4. Sam Fragoso on April 17, 2012 10:02 am

    I suspect my heart will remain true to Chicago as time goes by.

  5. Andrew on April 17, 2012 12:30 pm

    Between Boston, Rome, and New York, it’s a tough one. I’ve also always found Tokyo to be a pretty great backdrop for cinema.

    I know, I know, I’m being indecisive and wishy washy here. They’re all great. New York is probably the most iconic of the bunch, but they all have their own charms. If I have to pick a favorite, though, I’ll go with Rome and just hold to the party line, so to speak. Viva Italia!

  6. Sam Fragoso on April 17, 2012 12:35 pm

    Is there a film that made you appreciate Rome as much as you do?

  7. Steven Flores on April 17, 2012 12:46 pm

    Tokyo. “Lost in Translation” made me want to go there as I find it to be beautiful at night.

  8. Sam Fragoso on April 17, 2012 6:07 pm

    I haven’t seen either of the movies, so I’m a bit lost with your examples. However, I do find San Francisco to be a fun, romantic city – and hopefully will be attending school there in about a year and a half.

  9. Nick on April 17, 2012 6:24 pm

    I remember seeing “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off ” as a kid and wanting to go see what Chicago was all about.

    And now that I live in Chicago, every time I re-watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” it makes me fall in love with this city all over again. I’m still waiting for a “Twist & Shout” sing-along during a work day. Fingers crossed!

  10. Sam Fragoso on April 17, 2012 6:57 pm

    I’m sure that will happen soon Nick – just to please movie goers.

    Obviously, you know my love for Chicago. Much to agree with here.

  11. Danny on April 17, 2012 7:19 pm

    San Francisco for me. Two movies I think really get under the city’s skin are The Enforcer and Medicine for the Melancholy, but there are just so many movies that manage to use the city’s romantic charms and weary rot to great effect.

  12. Sam Fragoso on April 17, 2012 8:09 pm

    I haven’t seen either of these two films, so I can’t see eye to eye with you on this one. Still, San Francisco is a lovely place indeed. If all goes well, I’ll be attending college there in a year and half.

  13. John on April 17, 2012 9:08 pm

    I’ll apologize in advance for answer the question indirectly, but I’m going to cheat a little bit and give a country rather than a city… Mexico. It’s always romanticized in the same way, as this amazing place where you go to escape your past. Night of the Iguana, Under the Volcano, Shawshank, No Country for Old Men to a far lesser degree when Brolin’s on the run, it’s where Bill hides out in the Kill Bill movies, and I’m sure there are more.

  14. Sam Fragoso on April 17, 2012 10:05 pm

    Hmm, I can honestly say that I wasn’t expecting anyone to choose Mexico. Was Shawshank set in Mexico? I just remember a prison.

  15. ruth on April 18, 2012 7:56 pm

    Boy it’s a tough one, I think it’s either Venice or Paris as both have been depicted in such a dreamy way on film. Even in a stinker like ‘The Tourist,’ Venice still doesn’t lose its magic. I haven’t seen a bad movie set in Paris yet (or just can’t remember at the top of my head), and I LOVE the way it’s depicted in Midnight in Paris, the Sabrina remake, Paris Je t’aime, etc.

  16. Sam Fragoso on April 18, 2012 8:02 pm

    The Tourist oh wow, yes … that movie. I vaguely remember Depp and Jolie in the film. Anyway, I agree completely on the Paris front – always dreamy, no matter the film.

  17. Eric on April 21, 2012 10:31 am

    Chicago, no doubt. It’s always fun to recognize areas and say “hey, I’ve been there” or “hey, that’s just down the road from my apartment.” Plus there are so many great aspects of the city that open up all sorts of filmmaking possibilities.

  18. Sam Fragoso on April 21, 2012 10:54 am

    I suspect, if I had to choose a city, that Chicago may be my selection – again bias to having live there for 15 years (and plan on moving back when done with school).

    And yes, the diversity of the city is what makes shooting there so special.

  19. Andina on April 22, 2012 5:00 am

    I gotta say Greece, especially Santorini. The movie is a chick flick (sisterhood of traveling pants), but I dream to be in there since. And another part of Greece is in Mamma Mia. Great topic!

  20. Sam Fragoso on April 22, 2012 7:53 pm

    Hey Andina, thank you for stopping by the site. Appreciate that you selected a city, different from everyone else. I

    Greece sounds like a good time, then again, so does the rest of Europe.

  21. John on April 23, 2012 5:10 am

    Shawshank doesn’t get to Mexico until the very end. It’s the place that Andy dreams about as his place to escape his experiences stateside.

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