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Don't have the time or funds to take a vacation this summer? We've all been there. In the meantime, cure your wanderlust by screening some of the finest selections from cinema's indisputably greatest genre: "The Emotionally-Conflicted Woman on Vacation" Movie.
The African Queen (1951)
We all know what it's like when our seemingly straightforward missionary trip suddenly sidewinds into a rollicking riverboat voyage down the Nile to attack a German warship during WWI. Re-live the experience as Katharine Hepburn's primly intrepid Methodist joins forces and falls in love with Humphrey Bogart's rugged captain in John Huston's lushly romantic river-run across tropical East Africa.
All About My Mother (1999)
Seeking a pretty, picture-postcard vision of Barcelona? Then Woody Allen's stylish but schematic Vicky Cristina Barcelona should do the trick. But those seeking a local, lived-in ciudad that's both gritty and glittering — that shows you both seedy side streets and La Sagrada Familia — need only follow Manuela (the amazing Cecilia Roth) as she relocates from Madrid to Barcelona following a personal tragedy in Pedro Almodóvar's ambitious love letter to women the world over.
Before Sunrise (1995)
The Before trilogy's debut film may not even be its best — I'm partial to Sunset — and yet it is still the most swooning, star-crossed first date in arthouse history. The time-stopped, old-world beauty of Vienna's splendid architecture and cobblestone streets isn't just a backdrop to the swelling romance between Julie Delpy's radiantly contemplative student Celine and Ethan Hawke's raffishly over-confident dropout Jesse. Instead, it's a living, buzzing city whose rich inner life is keenly if fleetingly discovered by two passing strangers who are deep in the midst of discovering each other.
Cairo Time (2009)
Patricia Clarkson's weary, aloof traveler flirts with Alexander Siddig's alluring, at-hand tour guide while awaiting her detained husband's arrival in Ruba Nadda's little-seen but well-shot and quietly moving chamber drama. Everything from the magisterial pyramids to the bustling metropolitan streets of Egypt's sprawling capital exerts a spellbinding glamour. And even still, the most bewitching thing on screen is Clarkson's relaxed and ravishingly middle-aged presence.
The English Patient (1996)
The feverishly waning love affair between Kristin Scott Thomas' aristocratic adventuress and Ralph Fiennes' commanding cartographer in Anthony Minghella's sweeping, time-hopping romance is captured in stunningly sumptuous style across the endless sand dunes and rocky, imprinted caves of Northern Africa. We should all be so lucky as to get trapped inside a jeep during a severe Saharan sandstorm with nineties-era Ralph Fiennes.
Funny Face (1957)
Audrey Hepburn makes for the giddiest sightseer the screen has ever seen as a gauche bookworm transformed into a swanning fashionista in Stanley Donen's tuneful, Technicolored tourist's guide of Paris' most eye-popping attractions, encompassing everything from the Seine and Sacré-Cœur to the Louvre and the Champs Elysées. Sure, the film's a fluffy, American-baked croissant, but just you try to move your eyes away from this delectable, water-colored metropolis.
The Green Ray (1986)
One of European cinema's most spectacular, undersung treasures, Eric Rohmer's The Green Ray follows Marie Rivière's enchantingly exasperating Delphine, a Parisian secretary whose pining quest for a pleasing summer vacation takes her from the leafy countryside of Cherbourg to the tourist-teeming Alps to the sandy, sunny beaches of Biarritz. With each new stop, the emotions accumulate and the agony intensifies, culminating in a heart-stopping final shot of sudden, shared wonder, centered around the titular chromatic phenomenon.
Lost in Translation (2003)
It's hard not to resent Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation just a tad for the utter dunces it makes of its Japanese inhabitants. And yet it's almost equally hard to resist the film's poignantly intimate and overwhelmingly atmospheric impressions of feeling agitated and alienated within a foreign city. Coppola gets as much tangible, tender sensation out of Tokyo's poetic, street-level enormity and buzzing nighttime corners as she does from Scarlett Johansson's shiftless Yale grad Charlotte, whose face is a marvel to read during each new epiphanic discovery, romantic, touristic, or otherwise.
Morvern Callar (2002)
To preserve the stupendous, moment-to-moment thrills of Lynne Ramsay's ravishing, risk-taking Morvern Callar, it's worth staying tight-lipped on any larger story details concerning Samantha Morton's titular character, an inscrutably impetuous Glasgow grocery clerk. All you need to know is that a spontaneous trip to the seaside Spanish city of Almería results in some of the most gloriously tactile, sensorily gobsmacking cinematography ever seen on screen. You've never seen anything like it. You may never see anything like it again.
Paradise: Love (2012)
The striking, unsettling first entry in writer-director Ulrich Seidl's divisively merciless Paradise trilogy, Paradise: Love is, admittedly, not for the faint of heart. But for those who are willing to stomach a sweltering, thought-provoking, compassionately tough-minded tale about an eager middle-aged Austrian woman (the divine Margarethe Tiesel) who jets to a plush, white-sand, blue-water Kenyan beach resort looking for a young, able-bodied boy toy, Love is all you need.
Cinematically speaking, the all-time greatest beach vacation remains an emotionally volatile period of doctor-advised, identity-questioning, duality-shattering recuperation in a quaint coastal cottage inhabited by an adoring yet obsessive nurse and her newest charge, a disturbed stage actress who has recently assumed a strict vow of silence. Starring the electrifying Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann, Persona is the provocative, white-hot masterwork of Ingmar Bergman, who filmed this potent and existentially profound personality-swap in and around the shores of Fårö, the Swedish island he lived and died on.
The Portrait of a Lady (1996)
Isabel Archer, the greenly spirited and callously manipulated young heroine of Henry James' nineteenth-century literary touchstone, is perhaps the definitive American abroad. But in Jane Campion's formidably modern film adaptation, Isabel (breathed into life by the exquisite Nicole Kidman) comes even fuller into focus as she tours Florence, Greece, Turkey, and Egypt, before finding her sprightly energy squashed by a devious, Rome-dwelling expatriate, who turns Isabel's impossible dreams of self-sufficient independence promptly and piteously stale. As painted by the ambitiously masterful Campion, this Portrait — full of dancing riot girls, talking beans, and grainy, black-and-white travelogues — is utterly and uniquely its own.
Romancing the Stone (1984)
The dizzily diverting, comic-adventure escapades of Robert Zemeckis' blockbuster trek through the treacherous jungles of Colombia are enormously enhanced by the gutsy and engaging talents of the marvelous Kathleen Turner. As timid romance novelist Joan Wilder, Turner teams up with Michael Douglas' machete-wielding American mercenary to help track down her kidnapped sister and, in the process, turns this strait-laced city mouse into a brave and beguiling lioness of the great outdoors.
Kate the Great makes a second appearance on our far-flung list as inhibited Akron, Ohio spinster Jane Hudson, whose summer stay in Venice brings about romantic rejuvenation in David Lean's bountiful, brightly-colored valentine to Italy's bride of the sea. With her rollable home-movie recorder in-hand, Hepburn's plain, plaintive Jane immerses herself among the city's swarming piazzas, crowded cafés, stately bridges, grand pensioni, and curving, all-encompassing canals, one of which Hepburn actually fell into for an early stunt, contacting lifelong conjunctivitis and bringing new, plucky meaning to the phrase "acting on the edge."
Thelma and Louise (1991)
Make like Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon's iconically liberated gal pals in Ridley Scott's soaring feminist odyssey by grabbing your best friend, revving up the Thunderbird, and journeying across America's Southwest. Lose yourself in the silent majesty of its vast mountains and boundless fields. Roam through its dusty deserts like you're evading arrest. Live fast, die young, Thelma and Louise do it well.