City Films

One of my all-time favorite films, Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, was just refurbished by Criterion for Blu-Ray and the restoration is garnering rave reviews. I’ve only been to Berlin once, for a day, but thanks to this film I feel like I know the city.

Films about cities fascinate me. Some manage to engage their locations so intensely that the cities themselves become characters. And there can be no doubt that certain films shape the public’s understanding of a city.

When I think of Chicago, the first film that comes to mind is The Fugitive. I know I’m supposed to say The Blues Brothers, and that’s certainly a great one. But for me, it’s The Fugitive. The reason is that it was largely shot in the neighborhood where I first worked for Harry Weese Associates. HWA was at 10 W. Hubbard Street, just down the street from the Wrigley Building. The scene in The Fugitive where Harrison Ford runs in front of his friend’s car, to ask for help? That’s right across the street from a place that used to be Riccardo’s, the bar where Harry notoriously engaged in his two-martini-lunches.  And the FBI’s offices in the film were in the Equitable Building, where my stepsister Jackie worked. The scene where Ford makes a call to Tommy Lee Jones? That’s the Merchandise Mart Station on the Brown Line. All of these spots are within walking distance of one another, and the film pulls them in, an accomplice to Ford’s great evasion. It’s simply a fantastic film.

So… Chicago, The Fugitive. Berlin, Wings of Desire. What are your favorite city films? Are there any that make you long for another place?

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