USA Coast to Coast: Marco’s film-loving journey

Every cinephile’s dream? Go around the States far and wide, see with your own eyes the locations of films that have made the history of the seventh art, completely immerse yourself in the charm of the cities that have influenced the greatest directors. This is the journey I’ve always wanted and, for my degree, instead of receiving the classic watches, I decided to ask relatives and friends to give me air miles and I added all my savings. I start by saying that it was incredible.

It took me a while to plan everything: I wanted to move by car, not to be bound by the means of transport and especially to create a personalized itinerary coast to coast, without following the classic routes.

That said: I printed out a map marking the cities that most interested me, I did some research to figure out what to see and I rented a car on that would wait for me at New York airport and then I left it in San Francisco at the end (alas) of the trip. In my head I already saw myself as Peter Fonda when, in the first scenes of “Easy Rider” he throws away his watch, ready to dive into an amazing journey in America in the sixties. Of course, I wasn’t going to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras and I’m not a hippie, but it would surely have been an experience that would have changed me forever. And so it was.

From the Big Apple to San Francisco I traveled more than 3000 miles, I got stuffed with American breakfasts and I met a lot of people, even though I left alone. A word of advice: do things calmly, don’t try to visit everything. Emotions, for a cinema enthusiast, are fundamental; the love for these places is dictated by the love for the seventh art. It was not just a cultural journey to admire the beauty of the United States, but a journey in the footsteps of the films that marked my life. So here’s what you absolutely must not miss for a film-loving holiday in full swing and some useful advice for your trip on the (movie) road!

New York: the romantic face of the Big Apple

The Big Apple, with its thousand lights and quarters, is one of the most incredible cities I have ever seen. I could talk for hours about all the cinematic fascinations that New York has given me, but they are really too many, so I will tell you about the ones that have remained in my heart. First of all, if like me you have decided to rent a car, I suggest you in this case to leave it parked and move by public transport or you will lose a lot of time bottled up in the congested traffic of the metropolis. Besides, could you ever give up the thrill of calling a yellow taxi with your hand?

I would also like to say that I am a great romantic and that two of my favorite movies in the world are just like this: “Harry, this is Sally” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.  My tour started with the latter. Tiffany and Co. is located at 727 Fifth Avenue, 57th Street, and that’s where I went the morning after my arrival, holding a Danish pastry and a coffee, like the legendary Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly. As I said, I also love the love story directed by Rob Reiner and written by Nora Ephron starring Billy Crystal as the cynical Harry and Meg Ryan as the smorly but sharp Sally. So I couldn’t miss the places where the most iconic scene of the comedy was filmed (need I tell you what?): Katz Delicatessen, at 205 Houston Street in the East Village.

As soon as I saw the Plaza Hotel, I went back to my childhood thinking of “Mom, I went back to the plane: I got lost in New York”. Not to mention the Empire State Building: looking at it I imagined a giant gorilla with a young woman in her arms, climbing the skyscraper surrounded by an aviation biplane patrol. Obviously I’m talking about “King Kong”, the 1933 masterpiece. If you haven’t seen it, do it: the Empire won’t look the same to you. Finally, a trip to Brodway, immersed in the lights and atmosphere that characterize it, is a must. Look at what’s on the agenda during your trip and, even if it’s a bit expensive, buy a ticket for a musical. You won’t regret it!

Philadelphia: ready for a ride on the most famous staircase of the cinema?

From New York I moved to Pennsylvania, more precisely Philadelphia, for the second leg of the trip. Here, too, for a cinephile, there’s a lot of fun to be had. Who among you haven’t imagined, at least once, to walk along the long staircase that leads to the Museum of Art in Philadelphia with in the background “Gonna fly now”? It’s true, “Rocky” is not a masterpiece, but you can’t doubt that it’s an iconic film. At the base of the staircase there is a bronze statue created by sculptor Thomas Schomberg dedicated to the legendary Italian champion played by Sylvester Stallone. When you get to the top, I strongly recommend you to visit the museum: it’s amazing.

How can we forget “Philadelphia”, Jonathan Demme’s masterpiece? Walking through the city centre I saw the places where Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington wandered. Then there is City Hall, the headquarters of the City Council, one of the most architecturally impressive buildings in Philadelphia, with its majestic bell tower. Wonderful!

Washington: capital of power, city of a thousand faces

The journey continues. Third stop: Washington. It is obviously impossible to miss the White House, the set of many films that have made the history of cinema. In Washington you can also admire the National Mall, the long avenue that goes from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King gave the famous speech “I Have a Dream”. 

Not only that, it is also the location of one of the most exciting scenes of one of the most beautiful movies ever made. This is where Forrest Gump, played by an exceptional Tom Hanks, gave his silent speech during the 1969 pacifist march. Sitting on the lawn, I was thinking, “What did Forrest ever say when they accidentally took him on stage and pulled his microphone off?” That said, I did. Smartphone in hand – I recommend, do not be found unprepared, choose a subscription already deduced from Italy – and here is the solution “Sometimes, when people go to Vietnam, they go home to their mothers without legs. That’s a bad thing. And that’s all I have to say on this subject. Concussion at the highest level.

I’ve also been to M. Street. Does that ring a bell? Horror lovers have already understood: this is where Father Karras dies jumping from a window in “The Exorcist”. But maybe there’s one thing you don’t know: the students at Georgetown University charged $5 to everyone who was interested in seeing those scenes shot from the roof.

Dallas: the city for Oliver Stone fans

Washington and Dallas are about 2,000 kilometers away. A real road trip, in the southern part of the United States. As a good cinephile I know that the American roads are not so safe at night, and I did not want to risk finding myself in an episode of “Criminal Minds”. Always travel by day and book hotels in advance. After several American breakfasts based on eggs and bacon and breathtaking landscapes I arrived in Texas.

So what to see? First of all the Dealey Plaza, a square in the historic West End district, in the north-western part of the city, famous for the murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. This is where one of Oliver Stone’s masterpieces, “JFK – A Case Still Open,” was filmed. The appearance of the square is different from the film, however, because, to recreate the Dealey Plaza as it was in 1963, set designer Victor Kempster brought the Texas School Book Depository back to its original appearance, putting the railroad tracks back behind the hill and even being able to bring the trees back to the height they were when the murder was committed. And then treat yourself to at least a coffee at Milo Butterfingers, the bar-restaurant where Tom Cruise starts a fight in “Born on the 4th of July” (also directed by the great Oliver).

Los Angeles: a cinephile’s paradise

Back on the road for the penultimate leg of my journey. Again kilometers by kilometers to get to the paradise of cinephiles: Los Angeles. A visit to Hollywood is a must, even if you are not a film fan. The most famous studios in the world deserve to be seen in any case.

Here have been shot absolute masterpieces, you can breathe cinema in every corner of the city. I’ve been to the Bradbury Building on South Broadway for example: from the outside it looks just like a red brick building but the surprise is in the inner courtyard. My eyes were shining: the set of the final clash between Deckard and Batty in “Blade Runner” was there, in front of me. An emotion that every cinephile should feel.

Walking through Hollywood Boulevard and Rodeo Drive it’s impossible not to think back to the romantic and immortal film with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, “Pretty Woman”. Among the main locations are the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Regent Beverly Hotel. Having decided to travel by car, I also easily arrived on one of the most hungry roads in the cinema universe: Mulholland Drive. Lynch fans can’t help but appreciate it, and I’m one of them.

San Francisco: Hitchcock’s favourite city

So here I am in the last town: San Francisco. I came from the other side of the United States. Everything reminded me of one of my cult movies: “The woman who lived twice” signed by the master of thrill Alfred Hitchcock. I know almost by heart every scene in the film: James Stewart chasing Kim Novak around the city, from Union Square to North Beach via the Marina District, until she falls into the frozen waters of Fort Point, at the foot of a foggy Golden Gate. And that’s exactly what I did. The last thing I visited before leaving was the super prison that hosted some of the most difficult prisoners in America, including Al Capone: Alcatraz. “Escape From Alcatraz”, Don Siegel’s masterpiece with the legendary Clint Eastwood, is one of the films that marked my adolescence, so what better way, if not this one, to end my journey?

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