On Mother’s Day my son had the bright idea to take me gambling – big time gambling, as in the Monte Carlo Casino. We happened to be in Nice, France, and Monaco/Monte Carlo is a 15-minute train ride away. Mother’s Day – or la fête des mères – in France was Sunday, May 31.
I was skeptical but game. We went to Monte Carlo.
The entrance fee for the casino is 10 euros. It’s worth the price of admission just to see the magnificent interior. The main room has all the fin-de-siècle ornamentation you can imagine and is illuminated by eight crystal chandeliers. The lobby, the side parlors, the restaurants, the bathrooms – every square inch is kept in a condition of spotless elegance.
The actual gambling was not the main event for me. Rather, the most striking aspect of my experience was how impossible it was not to think of … you guessed it … James Bond. Indeed, the cocktail menu offers a Shaken, Not Stirred martini as well as a Casino Royale martini. Price: 16 euros.
The Hollywoodization of international travel was brought to my attention first and most forcefully in 2012 when I visited the temple complex of Angkor Watt, Cambodia. The most mysterious and magical of all the temples is Ta Prohm, a veritable ruin where the sinuous roots of kapok trees snake around and through the temple walls. This visually startling location was used for a scene in the 2001 movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Still today tourists are willing to stand in line for hours on end in order to have their picture taken in front of this famous movie set.
Back to the present. My son and I now need to get from France to Bucharest, Romania. Long story short, our cheapest option was to take the train from Nice to Milan, Italy and then a night train to Vienna, Austria. Upon arrival in Vienna we booked our night train to Bucharest.
While there, we had a full day in Vienna. We decided to do the tourist thing and take a Big Bus Tour. I wouldn’t have thought to put together my Monte Carlo Casino/Ta Prohm experiences had it not been for this bus tour. Hardly had we begun the tour than the 1949 film noir classic The Third Man was mentioned. The movie was set in post-war Vienna, starred Orson Welles, and is revered for its cinematography as well as its theme music. It’s even possible to do a Third Man Movie Tour of the city.
Later on in the tour, the Von Trapp family came up, and sure enough we soon heard about The Sound of Music along with how many Oscars the film earned, namely five.
The Viennese artist Gustav Klimt also came up a lot on the tour, and images of The Kiss and Portrait of Adele Poster can be seen all over town.
One of these days the tour spiel will no doubt be updated to include mention of Klimt in connection with the 2015 movie Woman in Gold.
And, yes, strains of The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss Jr. played on the bus. Upon hearing them, how could I not think of the spinning spacecraft in 2001. A Space Odyssey and the opening scenes of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom?
My travel experiences of recent years have made me realize how much the visual language of Hollywood not only pervades our perceptions of the world but also unites those of us traveling around the world. We know these movies. They are our common visual language. And even if not all of us are traveling internationally, I can write this blog because I know you know these movies, too. Or have heard of them. And can easily find references to them, if you like, on YouTube, for instance Welles’s famous Third Man dialogue during the scene at the Vienna Ferris Wheel.
Images are powerful because they give us ideas and impressions that skim below the threshold of articulation, and thus they operate outside of any given language. I did not realize until now how much my own brain had been Hollywoodified. It seems obvious in retrospect, but I had to be strolling through the gilded rooms of the Monte Carlo Casino with the words “Bond, James Bond” rolling around in my head to become fully aware of it.
See also: Addictions
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen