So, admittedly, when I read the assignment for today’s blog that involved watching a movie set in Prague, I had absolutely no idea where to begin. When one starts to think of movies that are filmed in European locales, one always seems to think of London, Paris, several places in Italy, perhaps Germany, but never really Prague, and even less the rest of the Czech Republic. So, I was rather at a loss as to where to begin in my search for movies filmed at my new temporary place of residence next semester. The only movie I had seen that I could honestly remember being filmed in Prague was a Mandy Moore movie I had seen with my ex-girlfriend a couple of years back about her being the President of the United States’ daughter, and of course, I wasn’t going to analyze that as my movie choice (though, for whatever reason, I still decided to open my big mouth and mention it here). Anyway, thanks to the extremely helpful list of movies featured on the Place Studies website, I found my movie of choice, 007’s Casino Royale, the first Bond film that showcased Daniel Craig as the new incarnation of Ian Fleming’s infamous secret agent.
I picked a random Brazilian movie, and it turned out to be perfect for this particular assignment. I watched “Cinema, Aspirins, and Vultures,” a movie made in 2005 about a German man traveling through the barren desert of Northeast Brazil in 1942. He left Germany because he did not want to participate in the war there, and he landed a job selling aspirin to the poor townsfolk of the nordeste, which is experiencing a drought. The film uses strange camera technique – it almost looks like the movie was shot in 1942. It focuses the camera on the people in the film, and so there are not many (if any) landscape shots, despite the open space to shoot film. Surely a high definition camera would capture all sorts of colors, but this movie was about the characters’ relationship with each other. That said, the main character, Johann represents a true traveler, as our class has defined it. Johann claims that he left Germany with no particular destination. He came to Brazil and liked it, so he stayed. He seems to do everything without reflecting on how this journey is changing him. He found work that allowed him to continue seeing new places, and he does this work efficiently. There is no sign from him that he does not belong in Brazil selling aspirin. One would think that this was his destined place in the world from the beginning. Tara Kolton wrote in her essay, “It is in this light that the Western world (particularly America here) views the less developed world as a place that can teach the traveler something about himself.”(21) Johann, a Western traveler of the 20th century, seems to have known everything about himself before he even started his journey.
For my museum visit, I rode my skateboard to the Bea Art Hall Gallery, which is actually the hallway of the Centro Cultural Brasil in New York. They are showing about 10 pieces, all of which are inspired by the writing of Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, a novelist, short story writer, and poet, who lived and worked during the 19th century. The pieces invoked images of Brazil, which is only natural since Machado de Assis never left Rio de Janeiro. One painting jumped out at me, because the whole canvas, about the size of my midsection, displayed two toucans. I could not fully translate the Machado quotation next to the painting, and so I asked for the only employee there to help me translate. The words read something along the lines of “God, you have given man a face or friendship. Devil, you have made men confused between love and friendship.” And the picture was of two toucans. The woman said that the toucans were specific to the Amazon, and represented Brazil. Another instillation piece had leaves strewn about on a shelf. All of the leaves were green, yellow, and black, which I took to represent the Brazilian flag. There were some portraits of Machado de Assis, one of which had lines of his writing spewing out of his mouth. To tell the truth, the art itself did not give me any particular impression of Brazil, or even of Machado de Assis’ works.