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Motion Pictures

Travel Ideals in Film


Edited By Gemma Blackwood and Andrew McGregor

This volume examines representations and explorations of travel ideals in contemporary international cinema. It assembles work from a diverse range of academic fields including anthropology, sociology, ethnography, cinema, culture, tourism, communication and language studies, with contributions from international experts such as Mary Louise Pratt of New York University, whose work on ‘contact zones’ continues to provide the framework for scholarship on travel writing around the world. The volume explores the link between filmed spaces and real locations, with one of the fundamental dynamics being the investigation of filmmaking itself, and in particular the notion that cultural authenticity may be sought and found by filming ‘on location’. Also examined are the notions of fantasy and exoticism that arise through an idealisation of the locations themselves and their transformational impact on the protagonists who travel there. Such is the impact of motion pictures on contemporary culture that these travel ideals in film will inevitably influence our understanding of cities, regions, nations and cultures; indeed, the world around us and our role in it.
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Chapter Three: Not Another Road Movie: Alternative Utopias of Travel in Sans soleil (1982) and Sansa (2003)




Not Another Road Movie: Alternative Utopias of Travel in Sans soleil (1982) and Sansa (2003)

Since the Second World War, road movies have crystallised the countercultural tendencies of generations around the world, but America remains the home and heartland of this cinematic genre. Fertile terrain for the road movie, America was and still is its model décor, providing inspiration for similar cinematic adventures in other wide open spaces like Australia – in the form of George Miller’s Mad Max (1979), and South America – with Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries (2004). France, too, has its own tradition of road movies from Les Valseuses / Going Places (Bertrand Blier, 1974) to Tony Gatlif’s Exils (2004) and beyond, though as Neil Archer notes in his book on the subject, The French Road Movie: Space, Mobility, Identity, French films are rarely recognised as contributing to the genre.1 Interesting that it was the French social critic of hypermodernity, Jean Baudrillard, who drew together the threads of speed, mobility, cinema and utopia in his travelogue Amérique (1986), in which the ideal representation of America would be a hypothetical real/reel-time epic:

We’d need the whole film of the trip in real time, including the unbearable heat and the music. We’d have to replay it all from end to end at home in a darkened room, rediscover the magic of freeways and the distance and the ice-cold alcohol in the desert and the speed and...

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