Movies about traveling

americano.jpgThe only things available during Boulder’s Blizzard of ’06 are groceries, liquor, and DVDs (everything else is shut down, even the Post Office and Denver Airport). So Tay and I make like the locals and stock up on all of the above. Perusing the .99-cent movie shelf at King Sooper’s, I stumble across two recent films about Americans traveling abroad, neither of which I’ve ever heard. The first flick, Hostel, is a 2005 schlocky Quentin Tarantino slash-fest whose only saving grace for so much bloody violence (besides the fact that one of the whiny lead characters is named Josh and wants to be a writer) is a constant parade of perfect Slovakian breasts in a — seemingly — paradisaical youth hostel/spa in Eastern Europe. However, if I’m going to watch American backpackers get mutilated, I’d much rather it be by werewolves than by— whoops, better not spoil it. On a more uplifting note, if I want to watch a celebration of the freedom of travel, the primal discovery of the new, I recommend Americano, a 2006 film by Kevin Nolan about backpackers in Pamplona, Spain.

Americano’s likable characters may wear thin at times, and the Hemingway references can be heavy-fisted, but it still feels real — even the trite philosophical scratchings in the journal of the lead character (Joshua Jackson). Falling in and out of love, drinking wine and absinthe, running with the bulls, grappling with the “reality” of back home… you’d think it would come off as cliched but somehow it doesn’t — perhaps because Nolan guerilla-filmed the thing in the middle of the actual Fiesta de San Fermín and in the stunning Basque countryside; visually (and musically), it’s all insanely fresh. There’s even a fun dose of crazed, inspired expat in the form of Dennis Hopper.

“Do what scares you,” says Jackson’s Spanish lover (Leonor Varela) to him, echoing a letter I received from my friend, Ze, after I’d first arrived in Nicaragua, when everything was new and walking out my front door in the morning was scary enough — so it was easy to comply.

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