Miramax, the once-pugnacious arthouse Hollywood indie studio that fought and clawed its way into mainstream success, quietly closes today after 31 years of bringing the great vistas of the world to American moviegoers. It’s been a long, slow death for the firm that, under the direction of the uncompromising, often combative Weinstein brothers, went from a small distributor, to Oscar mainstay, to Disney offshoot, to, eventually, a sad victim of its own success. Rather than dwell on why, we’re going to flip back through the pages of our “Film + Travel” series and remember the most beautiful places Miramax brought us over the years.
Tunisia, “The English Patient”, 1996
Like the late Anthony Minghella’s other great travelogue film for Miramax, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999), his “English Patient” devotes much of its time touring through famous and forgotten corners of Italy. But the truly transportive half of this Oscar winner is spent in the Onk Jemel area of Tunisia—a barren, beautiful wasteland that is first the setting for a star-crossed romance, and then a trap for its lovers.
Venice, “Everyone Says I Love You”, 1996
Sure, “Casino Royale” (2006), “Don’t Look Now” (1973), and “Ripley” all visit Venice—but it’s this little-remembered Woody Allen gem that captures the simple pleasures of place, ironically de-romanticizing the locale in what is supposed to be a very romantic movie. As Allen chats with his daughter at a canal-side eatery or pursues his unlikely fascination, Julia Roberts, at a boat mooring, we can take in Venice as it is, without the glamour.
New Zealand, “Heavenly Creatures”, (1994)
It’s the film that brought Kate Winslet and Peter Jackson to the attention of forward-looking American audiences. But it’s also one of recent film’s first and prettiest looks into the beauty of New Zealand. Before Jackson tackled his “Lord of the Rings” cycle, he was filming sun-dappled fantasies and murder in the gorgeous Hagley Park and Port Levy.
Hong Kong, “Infernal Affairs”, (2002)
Let’s not forget that one of Miramax’s great claims to fame was bringing pre-existing smart, successful films from overseas into stateside theaters. “Infernal Affairs” not only inspired eventual Oscar winner “The Departed” (2006), but it brought the mean streets of Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok districts into sharp, electric focus.
Cinecittà Studios, Rome, “The Gangs of New York”, (2002)
A glorious failure, “Gangs” was one of Miramax’s most ambitious and, eventually, costly films—a beautiful, detailed train wreck of a movie. In a move that recalled the epic movie-making style of old, Martin Scorsese and his production team recreated the famous “Five Points” of 1860s New York on the grounds of Rome’s legendary Cinecittà Studios. The scope and grit of this production showed that Miramax was willing to gamble on an artist’s vision, even if repeated gambles meant that their time would eventually run out.
For hundreds of equally beautiful locations used in hundreds of your favorite films, pick up a copy of one of our “Film + Travel” series guidebooks. The world awaits.
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