An American in Venice…

The Tourist

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Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck stylish comic thriller The Tourist is more a film to showcase some European and British talent than it is a blockbuster for the two major American stars, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.

Jolie and Depp shine as the leading couple especially in a wonderful scene at the Hotel Daniela in Venice, when Jolie who plays Elize Ward tells Frank (the Tourist) that after a dinner out, he has to sleep on the couch in the deluxe suite. Frank imagines the glamorous Elize undressing in the next bedroom, as he curls up on the crimson sofa with his spy novel.  The next morning Frank is suddenly escaping Russian gunmen on the rooftops of  Venetian villas and falls victim to the idiosyncrasies of the Italian police force when questioned about his supposed pursuers.

Venice is a much a character in The Tourist as the rest of the cast, and the ancient Italian city built on water is murky with a seductive intrigue whilst von Donnersmarck shows off this superb location, from wide-angle shots of the Piazza San Marco to subtle references in the script. One of the characters a cameo by Rufus Sewell even says if this intrigue had happened someplace else it would not be the same as it happening Venice.

The Tourist is a tribute to sophisticated comedies of the fifties and sixties complete with gorgeous costumes, a dash of intrigue and a beautiful location to match. Depp and Jolie are a wonderful pair as foils to each other’s deceptions. There is obvious tribute to the James Bond films in the Tourist, from Moonraker and Casino Royale both set in Venice, to Timothy Dalton as the head of M16 and a sinister impressive performance by Steven Berkoff, playing the billionaire gangster Shaw, reprising the role of the villain as he did with menace in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy.

The Tourist is a heady cocktail of intrigue, deception, humour and glamour letting the audience feel that like the title, they too have travelled on holiday to an exotic location and discovered a world unfamiliar to their own.

Director von Donnersmarck won the 2007 Oscar for best Foreign language film for The Lives of Others and is clearly enjoying making a less serious more glossy cinematic production whilst not compromising on the European style and sophistication of The Tourist‘s main locations, Paris and Venice.

Which always begs the question, why would a maths teacher from Madison, Wisconsin in the American mid-West be traveling alone on a TGV from Paris to Venice?

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