25 Août 2016
This article has been long overdue! Indeed, in my 50 states, 50 movies article I had voluntarily omitted both New York State and California in order to devote a full article to each of them. I have since published a list of movies made in New York (both the state and the city), but when it came to California I was lazy. So, because I try to keep my promises, even if it takes me forever, here's a list of movies taking place in various locations in California. I admit it wasn't difficult to find movies made in the most cinematic state in the US. But I still tried to come up with an interesting list. Also, all the movies I chose to showcase need to satisfy two criteria: taking place in the location in question AND having actually been filmed there.
Although Sacramento has been the setting of big and relatively recent Hollywood productions like Phenomenon or the pretty ridiculous Pink Cadillac, I chose a significantly older picture directed by Charles Reisner and featuring Buster Keaton. The last movie Keaton made with United Artists, Steamboat Bill Jr. tells the story of a ship captain's son who has to prove himself to his father, save his business and win the right to marry the woman he loves. Bellow is a clip from the movie showcasing what might be Keaton's most famous stunt scene.
In this classical film noir directed by Orson Welles and starring his wife Rita Hayworth a man finds himself entangled in the life of a rich couple with a few too many secrets to hide. One of the film's claims to fame is its climactic mirror scene.
I had trouble choosing between those two movies for San Francisco. So I decided to mention both The Lady from Shanghai and Vertigo. These movies have very different approachs to the city and, although both are thrillers, Hitchcock's style is a significant step away from the film noirs of his predecessors.
In Vertigo, Scottie, a former cop suffering from a paralyzing fear of heights after a traumatic accident is entrusted with the protection of a beautiful blonde believed to be possessed by the spirit of a dead woman. Sadly, his handicap incapacitates him at the worst possible moment and she dies on his watch. However, as Scottie is still grieving from this new tragedy, he spots a brunette who looks just like the recently deceased and decides to follow her.
The Birds might be the Hitchcock movie that aged the least well. A big part of it is due to the rudimentary special effects. Still, The Birds was a pretty impressive achievement for its time. I have to admit that it's not my favorite Hitchcock, but it's an interesting watch. Plus, it really does Monterey Bay justice with beautiful outdoor shots.
I'm not familiar with the geography of LA *at all* so I chose the neighborhoods I wanted to showcase somewhat arbitrarily. I hope you'll forgive me!
Paris, Texas takes place in various states including, hem, Texas, but several of its scenes are set in LA, where two of the main characters have a house. The film tells the story of the rescue of a disoriented man, Travis Henderson, by his brother Walt and his sister in law Anne after he is found wandering around in the South-Texas desert. As the couple takes care of Travis and tries to find out what exactly happened to him we learn more about his past and witness as Travis decides to get a grip on his life and reconnect with those he loved and lost.
Although the only scene taking place in Chinatown is the very last one, the neighborhood weighs on the whole movie and gives it its climax. In this neo-noir a private detective, Jake Gittes, is entrusted with a case that turns out to be more arduous than envisioned. Now, Jake will have to untangle a morass of corruption, murder, betrayal and greed, while, of course, dealing with a femme fatale.
It does seem pretty ridiculous to choose only one movie to represent Hollywood, but if a single movie can do it justice it's Sunset Boulevard, whose slogan, when it was released was "A Hollywood Movie". In this film noir (again!) with a humorous twist an unsuccessful screenwriter, Joe Gillis, is recruited against his will by a former star of the bygone silent-film era to write a movie that would allow her to make a come-back. A prisoner of her secluded mansion, Joe is less and less sure he can escape his hostess's influence.
The most recent movie on this list is significantly different from all the other films featured on it. Although it showcases the quest for a culprit, Tangerine is less a thriller and more some kind of queer social dramedy. As she is released form jail, a trans prostitute finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her. She embarks on a journey to find him and teach him a lesson through what the LA Times called "a low-rent city of doughnut shops, coin-op laundromats and jumped subway turnstiles". The result is a parade of bizarre encounters whose comical aspect erodes their fundamentally grim essence.
This steamy romance starts off in North Carolina, but as the persecuted couple at the heart of the movie flees from their family and the law they end up in the San Fernando Valley. My all-time Lynch favorite is as crazy as it is brilliant and exhilarating.
This pretty much incomprehensible movie is probably the most out-there entry on this list. I have to admit that it might not be everyone's cup of tea, and it can be difficult to understand critics' enthusiasm for it (Roger Ebert loved it for instance), but 3 Women is an intriguing watch and, all in all, an enriching experience (In my opinion at least).
Probably the funniest and most beloved movie on this list Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is set in San Diego and follows a group of almost completely inept local reporters, most notably the flamboyant Ron Burgundy, whose popularity is almost as great as his stupidity. The film boasts an amazing cast of comedians and is always a delight to watch.