Category Archives: Exotic Lands

The art of pumping up for a trip to tropical locales requires you to turn a blind eye to political and socioeconomic realities, and instead immerse yourself in the colonialist daydreams of yesteryear, when “exotic” wasn’t a taboo word, natives were important only insofar as they happily brought you drinks, and equatorial landscapes were pristine and luxurious. “Tropical” is a fantasy state of mind, after all; cultivate it now, before you leave.

The Big Bounce (2004)

How can you go wrong with this one? Based on an Elmore Leonard novel, The Big Bounce is set in Hawaii, directed with snapping fingers by underutilized genre pro George Armitage (Miami Blues, Grosse Point Blank), and graced with likable star Owen Wilson, as a small-time criminal who’s angling for a big score despite his better judgment and the advice of sympathetic local judge Morgan Freeman.

The Big Bounce (2004 film)
The Big Bounce (2004 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Color of Pomegranates (1969)

Georgian artist Sergei Paradjanov, after the eye-opening primitiveness of his 1964 film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, grew more abstract in his storytelling and more hellzapoppin with his folk-art imagery. This demanding and astonishingly beautiful film depicts the life of Armenian poet Sayat Nova (which Paradjanov mixes with the myth-tales of Nova’s own writing), and The Color of Pomegranates is a fabulous visitation of ancient Russian-Arab-Turkish-style fusion, as seen in the most surreal icon art.

The Color of Pomegranates
The Color of Pomegranates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Black Orpheus (1959)

One of the great mid-century import hits, Black Orpheus, a vivid Brazilian film, is an infectious retelling of the Orpheus-Eurydice myth, set during Carnival and feverish with hip-swiveling hustle, exploding local color, and sleeve-worn heart. Never underestimate the raw energy of South American partying.

Black Orpheus
Black Orpheus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Flying Down to Rio (1933)

We can still wistfully recall the days when, in the movies at least, developing world vacation spots were playgrounds for rich people who dressed in tuxedos and gowns, danced, ballroom style, under the palm trees, and nuzzled in the equatorial moonlight. Flying Down to Rio introduced the pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (but as the second leads, after Dolores Del Rio and Gene Raymond), and it features splendid tunes (by Vincent Youmans and lyricists Gus Kahn and Edward Eliscu) and a good amount of pre–Production Code bralessness—all under a fake Brazilian sky.

Film screenshot from the trailer to Flying Dow...
Film screenshot from the trailer to Flying Down to Rio (1933) announcing the screen partnership of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)