The view highlights the Ionian Sea, with a tiny island off on the horizon. On shore, the turquoise walls of the home-turned-lodge have begun to crumble, beautifully. Olive trees dot the landscape. The setting makes a nice escape, one hour at a time.
In the British comedy-drama “The Durrells in Corfu,” the widow Durrell and her four children have decamped from dreary England to sunny Corfu — and the Greek island is as much a main character as the family members, and every bit as charming. Diving into this four-season, 26-episode series practically transported me to Greece. (I watched the Masterpiece Theater production on Amazon Prime.)
My virtual trip to Corfu made me realize that a watch list could make a fine vacation surrogate, especially in winter as we await a coronavirus vaccine. What could be streamed during this cessation of travel that would have the power to entertain — and inspire future trips?
Minneapolis Star Tribune experts — movie and theater critic Chris Hewitt, media reporter Neal Justin and features editor Simon Peter Groebner — offer up some interesting options.
Hewitt suggested “Don’t Look Now,” a 1973 thriller set in a city made for thrillers, Venice. “No Country for Old Men” is great for “mind-travel to Texas and New Mexico,” he noted. “Manhattan” by Woody Allen also made his list.
Groebner pointed out that Allen, though “tricky,” has made several movies set in international cities, including “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “Midnight in Paris” and “To Rome With Love.” Groebner recommends “Bonjour Tristesse,” a 1958 drama that benefits from the relatively new tool of the time, Technicolor. It makes the French Riviera pop. If the French Alps top your wish list, the 1971 film “Claire’s Knee” could get you there.
For Justin, the TV series “Treme,” unfurling on the streets of New Orleans and inside its jazz clubs, “captures the city better than any other movie or TV series.” He also recommends the movies “Roman Holiday” and “Under the Tuscan Sun.” “‘A Walk in the Woods’ is a nice escape on the Appalachian Trail. Same with ‘Wild’ on the Pacific Coast Trail,” he said. He also pointed to “Conan Without Borders,” a Netflix series in which the late-night host travels the globe spreading his self-effacing humor, uncovering cultures along the way. Locations include Cuba, Israel and Korea.
Before diving into “The Durrells in Corfu,” I had watched “The Great Beauty,” by Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino. From the opening scene of a statue of Jesus flying above the city (tethered to a helicopter), the movie is a hypnotic roam through Rome. I’d watch the nearly three-hour extravaganza all over again just to see the lingering shots of the Tiber River at the end. As the opening voice-over says, quoting Louis-Ferdinand Céline, “Traveling is very useful. It makes your imagination work.”
Until we can travel freely again, our imaginations aren’t entirely on their own. We have our screens.
Westenberg is travel editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.