Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Five Favorite Movies Set in Venice

Ah, Venice! Ever since I saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as an eight-year-old, Venice has seemed like the most absolutely romantic place on earth. There really is no other city like it: an enclave of music and art, ships of exploration and secret identities, pink lights and rivers for streets.

All of this makes Venice a great setting for movies. A few years ago, I resolved to watch every single movie set in Venice that I could find. I doubt I’ll ever actually complete my goal, but here are my top five so far. What are yours?

casanova movie poster
1. Casanova (2005), starring Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller
To quote Richard Roeper, “This movie is a romp. A romp, I tell you!!!” Venice looks gorgeous, Ledger looks gorgeous, and I am a total sucker for the sort of insanely complicated comedy-of-errors plot that this movie has. Also, I’m a complete Casanova geek. I’ve read his entire autobiography, and once I got lost in Venice because I was too occupied thinking about how awesome Casanova was and listing all his accomplishments to pay attention to where I was going. I also met the man who created the masks for this film, Alberto Sarria. Fun fact: mask making has been the most profitable Venetian business since the 12th century. Which is saying something.

dangerous beauty movie poster
2. Dangerous Beauty (1998), starring Catherine McCormack and Rufus Sewell
Based on the incredible true story of Veronica Franco, a 16th-century Venetian courtesan who saved the city only to be tried by the Inquisition as a witch, Dangerous Beauty is searingly romantic and an incredible portrait of the city of Venice. Because she’s a courtesan, and smart, Veronica has incredible political power in a male-dominated world. Men respect her opinions and she influences foreign policy, all with the awareness that her fortunes rest on her ever-fading beauty. What I love most about this film is the ending: I was preparing myself for Veronica to die, when suddenly the Inquisition was like, “Venice! What can we do?” before packing up their bags and hieing back to Rome. I found the whole thing a little unbelievable until I found out THAT’S ACTUALLY WHAT HAPPENED. Venice 1, Inquisition 0.

the tourist movie poster
3. The Tourist (2010), starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie
If you like classic suspense movies like North by Northwest or Charade, The Tourist is right up your alley. Jolie is gorgeous as a sophisticated ice queen who falls for a “cool” math teacher from Wisconsin. Jolie brings so much to this role and I love Johnny Depp. The only issue I have with The Tourist is that I don’t think Venice was utilized enough as a setting: a majority of the shots are interiors that could be found in any major European city. But it does have Paul Bettany in it, so I’m willing to overlook that.

casino royale movie poster
4. Casino Royale (2006), starring Daniel Craig and Eva Green
Casino Royale surprised me with the fact that it was 1. awesomely good; and 2. a romance. Most of the film doesn’t take place in Venice, but I think the connection between the gambling scenes and the Venetian scenes was brilliantly done, seeing as how cards were supposedly invented in Venice and it was home to the first casino, the Ridotto. Even though Bond and Vesper are only in Venice for about the last fifteen minutes of the movie, the Venice scenes are the most memorable in the film. They’re brilliantly shot and perfectly utilized, and the cinematographer deserves major props.

don't look now movie poster
5. Don’t Look Now (1973), starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland
Speaking of that chase scene through the streets of Venice in Casino Royale, you might remember Vesper’s scarlet coat. That’s actually a tribute to Don’t Look Now, a horror flick that shows the grittier side of Venice. I’m not going to say it’s my favorite movie ever, because it’s kind of silly and weird, and there’s a random sex scene with Donald Sutherland and his naked butt (he is my old man crush, but still, TMI). HOWEVER, I like the unique way the cinematographers treated Venice and how the city seemed creepy as heck by the end of the movie. But the real reason you should watch Don’t Look Now is the red coat: it’s a part of pop culture. Aside from Casino Royale, it’s been referenced in Flatliners, In Bruges, the 2005 film The Dark, and many songs including Big Audio Dynamite’s “E=MC2” and the M83 song “America.”