Making travel plans may not be advisable at the moment, especially at a time when taking a trip to the grocery store and avoiding human contact are deemed significant accomplishments. But here is what you can do: watch movies set in scenic locations and marvel at the beauty. Here is a list of five non-English travel movies that might perhaps help you create your itinerary as soon as the pandemic ends.
Chungking Express (Cantonese/Mandarin)
Crowded streets rapturous with activity, brightly-lit neon lights, fast food joints and a swarm of people are the images that cross your mind when you think of Hong Kong as a potential travel destination.
This romantic drama captures the hustle-bustle culture of the city, which, according to director Wong Kar-wai, was done on purpose. Narrated in a non-linear fashion, Chungking Express tells two stories dealing with two police officers and their romantic encounters, stitched together as one movie. The characters wander around the happening streets of Lan Kwai Fong and have a meal at the popular fast food joint, Midnight Express, which forms a dominant part of the storytelling.
Lan Kwai Fong is one of the busiest places and is known as the heart of Hong Kong; it houses fast food joints, fancy restaurants, bars, and the place is synonymous with nightlife. Kwun Yam Temple, HK Accidental Art Tour and Hong Kong Walking Tour are a few suggestions. If you want to get the real taste of Hong Kong food and its culture, you know what is the first stop. Of course, never miss an opportunity to taste Dim Sum.
This light-hearted fantasy drama directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet stood out for its distinctive use of colours and has since become a must-watch for every aspiring cinematographer. The movie follows the life of the titular character, a loner-waitress. She works at the now-famous Cafe des 2 Moulins in Montmartre, Paris. One day, Amelie decides to live others’ lives, bringing the much-needed joy to their otherwise mundane lives.
What follows next is a rollercoaster ride and a mini cultural trip to Paris as we hop on Amelie’s shoulders and join her entourage. We take multiple stops to marvel at the beauty of Notre-Dame de Paris, a medieval Catholic cathedral, which, according to reports, draws over 13 million visitors a year. The cathedral was severely damaged in a fire that broke out last year and efforts are currently on to restore the 800-year-old landmark. The bustling Abbesses Metro Station, a warm evening by the riverside of Saint-Martin canal, and the quiet streets of Rue Saint-Vincent opposite Montmartre’s vineyards are some of the other places to look out for.
Certified Copy (French/Italian)
Certified Copy, starring the French icon Juliette Binoche, is a solid entry point to the subliminal works of the Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami. The French drama is a melancholic mediation of art, its authenticity and gender politics among other things. The plot is deceptively simple: a British author arrives in Italy to hold a press conference on the launch of his latest book, ironically titled Certified Copy, where he meets She (the unnamed character played by Binoche), a single mother who runs an art gallery and who is a fan of his work.
They flirt, argue and debate endlessly — all over art. They walk the streets of Cortona, Tuscany, drive through the vineyards of Lucignano, rummaging through memories, and visit the famous MuseoComune di Lucignano, where they chance upon an 18th-Century painting which was believed to be an original for over 200 years. But here is the twist: what starts off as an innocent meet-cute date between two strangers turns into a heated argument as the couple behave as though they have been married for years, dissolving the lines of reality and fiction.
The museum of Lucignano has become a major tourist attraction for The Golden Tree aka The Tree of Love, an ornamental Gothic jewellery crafted between 1350 and 1471, considered to be one of the greatest masterpieces of Italian goldsmiths, Ugolino da Vieri and Gabriello D’Antonio. The Tree is believed to bring luck to lovers, according to their culture. If you are planning a holiday to Italy, do check out these places where the movie was shot: Piazza Della Repubblica, Florence, Albergo Osteria Da Toto, Venice and Frazione Pieve Vecchia, Toscana.
Filmmaker Lee Chang-dong captures the vast expanse of South Korea, offering a rich look into the twin worlds his characters inhabit — the lively, urbanised lanes of Paju and its rural neighbourhood.
Based on the short story Barn Burning by Haruki Murakami, the movie is both drama and thriller, and examines the lives of three central characters, Jong-su, Hae-mi and Ben. They share a meal together at one of South Korea’s famous restaurants, Gopchang Jeongol Restaurant, and spend a chilly evening on the outskirts of Paju and near the border of North Korea, where Jong-su lives. The dynamics change when Hae-mi disappears one day and Jong-su begins to suspect Ben.
If you have decided on Paju as your next travel destination, after having watched Burning, make sure you visit Provence Village, Heyri Art Village, Soulone Botanical Garden and Sanmeoru Farm.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (French)
The waves come crashing at the bay of Quiberon, as Marianne (Noemie Merlant) and Heloise (Adele Haenel) take a quiet stroll by the shore in their second meeting, seeking comfort in each other’s existence. With the lush of the sea and two beautiful actors in the foreground, the scene, if anything, has a painterly nature to it. For a similar portrait, you will have to head to the mesmerising peninsula of Saint-Pierre-Quiberon in Brittany, France. At Saint-Pierre-Quiberon, you can indulge in a sea of activities including diving, kite surfing, sea kayaking and hiking trails by the sea.
Set in 18th-Century Brittany, the film is a gorgeously-shot lesbian love story that explores the relationship of an artist (Marianne) and her subject (Heloise). Director Celine Sciamma employs land and sea as metaphors to get into the emotional state of her characters. Much of the film’s portion was filmed at the castle of La Chapelle-Gauthier in the town of Seine-et-Marne in France, which has been recognised as a historic monument since it was constructed as far back as the 17th Century. La Chapelle-Gauthier has now become more popular, thanks to Portrait of a Lady on Fire and its subsequent award at the Cannes Film Festival last year.