The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Archive for the ‘The Road’ Category

The best movies about food are those where there is none

with 22 comments

Let’s talk about film food. And no, it’s not another rant about how much we all hate popcorn. It’s about what’s on the screen. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about food in movies.

For me it’s THAT scene at the restaurant in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. I don’t think you want me to talk about it, so we’re stop there.

Number two to pop up in my mind is La Grande Bouffe, where Marcello Mastroianni and his friends purposely and as far as I recall successfully eat themselves to death.

And then my mind drifts off to the futuristic cannibalism of Delicatessen. And cannibalism in turn opens up to a field of choices, ranging from The Silence of the Lambs to Alive!

Yes, I’m a sick, sick person.

In an attempt to appear as a normal person, I should obviously speak about good, uncontroversial food related movies, such as Sideways, Dinner Rush or Babette’s Feast.

I’m not going to do that though. It doesn’t raise my appetite to watch people helping themselves at lavish dinner tables such as the one in Marie Antoinette. If anything it makes me disgusted. But show me someone who is hungry for real, someone who is on the verge of starving to death – and I’ll think about food in a new way. After watching such a movie, a meal that I’d normally consider trivial, like having an apple or a sandwich, turns into a luxury.

The Road
The best movies about food are those where you don’t see much of it. It’s present as a dream.  In this post I’m going to talk about one of them, The Road from 2009, which I recently paid a revisit. Do you remember it? If you’ve seen it, I bet you do. The image of the man-without-a-name and his son, walking through a world in ruins after an undefined disaster, with all their possessions in a shopping cart, doesn’t go away anytime soon. They’re sick, they’re freezing, they fear for their lives every second, afraid to become victims to cannibals.

I didn’t read movie blogs when it came out, so it was only later that I found out that it wasn’t overly well received. The film is based on a praised novel, and those who have read it claim that the adaption is inferior. To me it’s a non issue, since I’ve only seen the movie.

Some people accused it of being too much of a crowd pleaser, not dark enough, out of fear of scaring away the audience. Then there were others who claimed the opposite, thinking it was unbearably gloomy.

Unaware of the criticism, I loved it without any reservations when it came out and on my rewatch I found that it was just as good as I remembered it. It’s the harshest – and at the same time most believable – picture of the final days of mankind I’ve seen. And it’s so much more than just a survival story set in the future. It brings up all those questions – about ethics, about what it means to be human, about where our boundaries go and what makes life worth living at all. Would we or wouldn’t we eat other people if our survival depended on it? Even if we consider ourselves “good” people, is there a point where the survival instinct will take the overhand and lead us in a different direction? Is suicide ever justifiable? Each one of us will have a different answer to those questions, but in the end it’s all just speculation. We don’t know where we really stand until we’ve been in those shoes ourselves.

The Coke can scene
Back to the food again. While we don’t see much of it, it’s right there in the middle of The Road. When you strip your life from everything non-essential, it’s what it’s all about. Bread and water. Or a can of Coke. One day the father finds it, stuck in a vending machine and he insists on his son to have it. Judging from his reaction it might be the first he’s ever had, being born after the point when the world fell apart. The shared soda becomes a bubble of, if not happiness, at least temporary relief from everything that plagues them. Living in a world where people buy soft drinks in two liter bottles, I can’t help wondering if this abundance has made our senses numb. We don’t feel the taste from the drink anymore. We just drink it anyway, not enjoying it particularly much and aware of that it doesn’t do us any good.

Another memorable scene is when they find a shelter full of canned food. For the first time in the movie they have a real meal. It’s food that we normally would sneer at, but in this context it becomes an extraordinary dinner.

Put in that light, today’s dinner of macaroni and some fried sausages doesn’t appear all that bad.

And that’s why I watch movies in the first place: to challenge my perspective on life. It’s like with a snow globe. It needs a little shake-up once in a while to remain beautiful.

This post is a part of a blogathon run by the Swedish film blogging network Filmspanarna. The theme was “food”.  Here’s a list of links to the other participants.

Written by Jessica

October 31, 2012 at 8:00 am

Posted in Filmspanarna, The Road

Travelling through the movies – a 10 list for your enjoyment

with 19 comments

To quote a movie I didn’t care for particularly much (apart from as a cure for insomnia): I’m not here.

As this post is coming up, I’m most likely resting my feet, sipping a drink of ouzo after spending the entire day walking around and admiring the remains of the classical Athens.

I’m in a different café than this one, even though I might very well be wrapped up in a film related conversation since the friend I’m visiting also is a cinephile.

But don’t despair! I thought I’d give you a little something to much on before I return to blogging around the middle of next week. As my mind got more and more filled with travel lust I naturally started to think about movies I’ve seen that are about travelling, one way or another and I decided to compile them to a list.

Some of them won’t come as a surprise; they’re frequent on this kind of lists. But I’ve also included a few films that are old or odd enough to not necessarily be the first you come to think of.

The idea was to give different perspectives on travelling.

1. The world in between

The Terminal (Steven Spielberg, 2004)

Airport magic. Is there anything like it? People, all those people. Strangers and yet somehow related. We’re all Travellers, going somewhere or leaving something behind. Closing doors, opening doors in our lives. We’re meeting in this place outside of all places. A neutral territory, a world between the worlds, belonging to everyone and no one. I look at their faces, at their clothes, the way they’re moving, their luggage and I turn into a Sherlock Holmes wannabe, making stories in my mind about their past and their future.

If I wasn’t a such a sensible woman and if the parking fees were a little lower I’d probably go to the airport once in a while just to sit there, watching airplanes landing and taking off, sitting my coffee.

Admittedly the squatter in The Terminal has other reasons for not leaving the airport than romanticising about travelling. But still – an entire movie that takes place in a flight terminal. You have to love it.

2. Unwillingly

The Accidental Tourist (Lawrence Kasdan 1988)

Cities over the world look more and more alike each other. The Swedish H&M retail is established in San Francisco.  And I regularly have a lunch sandwich at Subway in my hometown. While convenient (you don’t need to think things over, you just pick the same sandwich as you did 5 000 kilometers away), it’s also pretty saddening.

Add to this our computer-like phones, which keep us connected with anyone in the world 24/7 if we want and travelling isn’t quite what it used to be.

But I know someone who wouldn’t mind this development: William Hurt’s character in The Accidental Tourist. He makes a living on writing guide books to help people who hate travelling but have to do it in their job to make the journey as much homelike as possible so they’ll barely notice they’re abroad. At the point when this film came out the thought was pretty absurd. And now… we’ll we’re basically living his dream. Food for thought.

3. Train nostalgia

The Murder on the Orient Express (Sidney Lumet, 1974)
I remember the first time I read Agatha Christie’s crime novel The Murder on the Orient Express. I must have been about 12 years old and was completely wrapped up in it and SHOCKED by the conclusion. One after one I had suspected everyone in the party and it turned out to be… Oh, well, you know I guess. I was so taken by it and so saddened that it was over that I immediately read it a second time. Surprisingly enough it turned out that the murderer was the same one.

Nothing beats travelling by train when it comes to putting you in the right travel mode. The soft thumping sound is hypnotizing and soothing, either you decide to spend the night staring into the darkness, occasionally broken by bypassing villages, or you allow yourself to drift into the sweet sort sleep that only a moving train can offer.

As of the murderer I don’t care too much at this point. It’s all about the train.

4. On the run

Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991)
It’s been a while since I watched this one, so I don’t remember the details and I have no idea if it still holds up after twenty years. But I’d sure like to find out. I remember it as a kick-ass film, picturing two empowered women on a road-trip, taking control over their own lives. It passed the Bechdeltest with wide margin. It felt refreshing and new at the time it was launched and when I think about it I realize that this kind of movie still is pretty unusual after all those years. Strong female characters. How many of those do we get to see?

5. So alien!

Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972)
I’m a science fiction fan, so of course I wanted to include a movie about space travel on my list. While I love Star Trek’s mission to explore and grandness of 2001, I finally went for the original version of Solaris. Among all aliens space travellers encounter, I think this one is the most alien. If mankind ever will travel so far in space that we’ll encounter other species, I imagine we’d end up in the same difficulties in communication.

Be warned if you’re a cinema snoozer like me. It’s on the slow side and you’d better load up with a lot of coffee to get through it. Another tip is to read the source material, Stanislaw Lem’s novel with the same name. I think it makes a good companion and gives a better understanding of the movie.

6. A journey into misery I

The Flight of the Eagle (Ingenjör Andrés luftfärd, Jan Troell 2011)
All my life I’ve been intrigued by the Swedish Arctic Balloon Expedition to the North Pole, led by the engineer S.A. Andrée.

The expedition ended in disaster. The balloon fell to the ground and the expedition members, badly equipped and prepared, died eventually. No one knew about what had happened to them until 33 years later, when their last camp was discovered.

In the cold a lot of items had been preserved, including diary notes, which gave a fair picture of what had happened. Those sources inspired to a fictional book, which in turn inspired to this movie starring Max von Sydow among others. It’s a story about vanity, about how PR, politics and other interests can make you caught up in a web of half lies until there is no choice but to go forward, even if you’ve lost your faith in the project. And it’s a story about what happens in the group of three men, trying to survive in the arctic with all odds against them.

7. A journey into misery II

The Road (John Hillcoat, 2009)
Sometimes you’re not travelling for pleasure; you’re doing it in a final, desperate attempt to survive. And that’s the case with The Road, which is the darkest post-apocalyptic movie I’ve ever watched, and also my favourite in the genre. I particularly like that you never get to know what happened, what disaster that has made mankind end up like this. It’s not important. Only survival matters.

8. Searching for something

Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007)
When you read a book first and watch the film adaptation afterwards, you often end up liking the book better. Equally: if you watch a film first and then read the book it’s based on, you often prefer the film. That’s just how it seems to work. You know you shouldn’t compare them, but you end up doing it anyway because you can’t erase the tracks that the book had left in your mind. But Into the Wild is an exception to this rule. I had read Jon Krakauers biography about the young man who hitchhiked his way around America to end up in the wilderness in Alaska long before I watched the film adaptation, but I ended up liking the adaptation even better. The casting was perfect, the cinematography breathtaking and the score by Eddie Vedder is simply wonderful, one of my favorite soundtracks in film history.

The film has gotten some crap for idealizing stupid behavior leading to the unnecessary and meaningless death. I disagree with this. It’s very clear what mistakes he made and how he eventually realized this. But more than anything else, to me it’s a film about the exhilarating feeling of hitchhiking, of taking the day as it comes, of being young and on the road.

9. Connected and disconnected

Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
Lost in Translation is my favourite movie. I’ve written about it before and I keep coming back to it, mentioning it again whenever I get the chance to. And where does it suit better than in a list over travel movies? It’s a concentrate of what travelling means to me, or at least a certain kind of travelling. Scarlett Johansen sitting in the window at the hotel, looking out over the foreign city in the night, far, far away from home, hits a note with me – I know that feeling. Bob and Charlotte are disconnected to the world but get a temporary connection to each other before they’ll continue their lives on different roads, like travellers do.

10. My most anticipated

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Peter Jackson 2012)
Doesn’t almost every fantasy movie contain some sort of travelling? Epic journeys – that’s what the entire genre is about. My first thought was that I’d include the long walk through Middle-Earth in the ring trilogy, but then I decided to look forward. The Hobbit even has the word “journey” in the title, what more could you ask for?

I’m not ashamed to say that The Hobbit is my most anticipated movie in 2012. I cherish the video diaries as they’re released (number six is just up in case you’ve missed it) and the few glimpses we’ve seen make me hopeful about the result. My only worry is that they’ll make the dwarves into too much of joke characters. I think dwarves deserve some respect too.

Final words
Our journey through travel movies has come to an end. As I said in the beginning of this post: I’m not here, but I will be back.

Meanwhile you can talk with each other. Which travel themed movie is your favourite and why? Share your stories about movies and travelling. And by all means – help yourself and enjoy whatever drinkables you may find in the bar.

See you around!



Written by Jessica

March 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm