August 15, 2011

Rome. October, 1980

I was thinking recently about how much our impressions of places, especially those we haven’t visited yet, are shaped by the movies. For example, do you think my friend Dali here has seen Audrey Hepburn or Gregory Peck insert their hands into the Bocca della Verità in Roman Holiday? On a boat to Torcello, I asked two guys from San Francisco why they were going to this Venetian island and they said, “We’ve seen Betrayal just like you.” (Yes, it was true.) Barcelona and Madrid are shaped for me by the films of Almodóvar. Paris by those of Truffaut. When I went to Istanbul for the first time, I couldn’t get the theme song of Topkapi out of my head, nor its panoramic rooftop scenes of the daring museum theft. James Bond films have done a much better job than any formulaic PBS series in piquing my interest in world capitals. Julie Andrews singing in the streets of Salzburg. Even The Thomas Crown Affair (original) made Boston and its North Shore look beautiful. (Dali and I once had Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant that used to be the bank that was robbed in that film.) And I once felt compelled to bring coffee and a donut to the NYC flagship Tiffany & Co. store. But I suspect I am not alone in that distinction. I’ve seen that picture many times, just like you.

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