Columnist Caitlin Weigel discovered movie sets from London to Berlin.
LONDON – I’m assuming most of you have seen a movie at some point in your life.
The odds are pretty good that you’ve either actively sought out movie-going experiences, or your childhood babysitter forced you to watch “The Sandlot” to shut you up so she could call her boyfriend. Either way, we’ve all found ourselves staring at a screen, watching a narrative unfold for at least 90 minutes at some point in our lives.
Something about a movie’s ability to draw us in to completely different worlds is especially captivating. And while a visit to Oz or Narnia is probably out of the question – unless you know about some secret wardrobe you’re holding out on me – some movie settings destinations are more realistic.
I frequently pass by Gringotts Bank in London, although those who work there prefer it to be called the “Australian Embassy.”
In Berlin, we found ourselves in the Gendarme Market, a square featured in “Run Lola Run.” Though, we walked at a rather leisurely pace through the area – after eating my weight in German chocolate, running was out of the question.
When I discovered the Parisian neighborhood we were staying in was Montmartre, the same area that hosted the filming of the overly adorable 2001 film, “Amelie,” I knew I had some exploring to do. Who wouldn’t want to live in Audrey Tautou’s kitschy, yellow-tinged world?
Using one of the ancient computers in our hostel, I figured out the address of the café where “Amelie” was filmed – conveniently, it was right around the corner.
My roommate and I trudged through Montmartre, past numerous shops selling souvenirs and sex toys – they failed to show this side of the neighborhood in the movie – until finally we reached our destination: Café des Deux Moulins.
It was only a block away from the famous Moulin Rouge, yet another film destination, and was decidedly more crowded than it appears in the film. However, the charm was still there.
Seated at the back of the packed café, my friends and I were smushed up against a mirrored wall and a pillar. The air did look a little sunnier, although that could have been a result of the insane hunger blurring my vision.
Having traipsed through Le Puces (the fleas) that morning, followed by the intense stair-master work out required to get to the Sacre-Coeur, I had worked up quite an appetite. Not a dainty French girl, just-a-croissant-and-cappuccino-for-me-thanks kind of appetite, but full-on American cowboy, two-steaks-and-a-milkshake kind of hunger.
I ordered a big ol’ salad – the appeal of carbs was waning after three days in Paris – with toast and goat cheese on the side and dug in, displaying some less-than-adorable, totally non-“Amelie” behavior.
After lunch, while we sat digesting our feast, I tried to pinpoint the exact locations of the scenes. The counter, the booths, even the bathroom – each spot gave me a little rush and a feeling as if I were actually connected to the film.
Philadelphia has been the backdrop in numerous films, as well. In fact, the Greater Philadelphia Film Office is entirely devoted to scouting locations and luring filmmakers to the city.
Obviously, “Rocky” and all its sequels are the most notable Philly films, and you can join the masses jogging up the Art Museum steps any given day of the week, but there are tons of other familiar film spots.
Hang around Pine Street or at St. Augustine Catholic Church on the corner of Fourth and Vine streets to catch a glimpse of some dead people à la “The Sixth Sense.”
Or, swing by Fourth and Pine streets to check out the cemetery at Old Pine Street Church where Nicholas Cage dodged bullets in “National Treasure.”
The Eddie Murphy film “Trading Places” features shots of 30th Street Station and Rittenhouse Square.
And, of course, there are numerous shots of Philly in the show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” as one would expect. The one shot that’s missing? Scenes of Main Campus in the pilot episode, which the characters claim is set at Temple. This will always upset me.
Next time you take to the streets in Philadelphia, look past the smashed forties and discarded Taco Bell wrappers to experience the city as a film set, minus the cameras, lights, crew and actors, of course.
Caitlin Weigel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.