Sony Pictures Classics

"Persepolis" tells a coming-of-age story of a young girl during the Iranian revolution.

March 23, 2020

YANG | Around the World in Self-Isolation

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I’ve traveled to London for spring break two years in a row. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world, and while I wasn’t planning on going back this year, when suddenly faced with the prospect of not being able to go back there in the near future, I found myself missing it terribly. I even looked into getting books mailed over from my favorite London bookstore, but the postage cost stopped me.

It soon occurred to me that I wasn’t just missing the city, I was missing what it was like when the city was still bustling with life.

As the pandemic is ravaging the world as we know it, it’s important for us to remind ourselves of normalcy, of the beauty of life and civilization, and one of the best ways to do that is through art. Therefore, I thought I’d take this opportunity to recommend some of my favorite movies, television and books about the places that are now under siege and seem worlds away.

New York, USA – Julie & Julia (Book/Film)

Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams, takes on cooking to cope with the stress of her job answering phone calls from families impacted by 9/11.

Columbia Pictures

Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams, takes on cooking to cope with the stress of her job answering phone calls from families impacted by 9/11.

Based on a memoir of the same name, Julie & Julia is about a special connection between two women across space and time, forged through a shared passion for cooking. New Yorker Julie Powell, feeling hopeless in her day job answering phone calls from families impacted by 9/11, decided to embark on an ambitious blogging project: Documenting herself recreating all of Julia Child’s recipes. Not only does this movie showcase the power of food in bringing people together, but it also portrays New York City right after its greatest crisis in history. And since the devastation of this pandemic may just end up being comparable to the toll 9/11 took on New York, it’s important to remember that the city will survive. It is the greatest city in the world, after all.

Bergamo, Italy – Call Me By Your Name (Book/Film)

The story of "Call Me by Your Name," starring Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet, takes place in Bergamo, Italy.

Sony Pictures Classics

The story of “Call Me by Your Name,” starring Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet, takes place in Bergamo, Italy.

While I’m one of those people who believe that this film was overhyped during awards season, it does tell a beautiful story about love and family, and we could all use some sense of calm and comfort right now. I’ll also be the first to admit that the language of the original novel is breathtaking, and the cinematography and music in the film were impeccable. So even if you don’t find yourself captivated by the story and acting, I think anyone would appreciate the movie’s portrayal of a sun-drenched, idyllic summer in Crema and Bergamo. As the epicenter of the outbreak in Italy, life in Bergamo today is surely nothing like that in the movie. Once this is all over, I would love to see for myself the beautiful scenery. But until then, Call Me By Your Name is a wonderful proxy.

Paris, France – Midnight in Paris (Film)

Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston as Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald in "Midnight in Paris."

Sony Pictures Classics

Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston as Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald in “Midnight in Paris.”

It’s every English major’s wildest dream to be transported back to Paris in 1920, have a drink with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway and submit our writing to be critiqued by Gertrude Stein — which is probably why I have such a soft spot for this movie. Paris has always been one of those places that I imagined I would love despite never having been there. I went through the trouble of learning French, but now that I can trust myself to order a coffee and purchase a book at Shakespeare & Co., a trip there doesn’t seem feasible anytime soon. So instead, let’s travel back to a century ago, when Paris was at the peak of its glory, when Notre Dame was still intact, when art was in the air and life was everywhere.

London, UK – Good Omens (Book/TV)

An angel and a demon cheer to humanity in the Ritz hotel in "Good Omens."

Amazon Studios

An angel and a demon cheer to humanity in the Ritz hotel in “Good Omens.”

Adapted from British authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett’s novel of the same name, Good Omens is a comedy about how an angel and a demon work together to stop the end of the world. After spending over six thousand years on earth, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley both developed an affinity toward human kind, and as the Apocalypse becomes imminent, they embark on the seemingly impossible quest to prevent it from happening. Featuring: The city of London, the English countryside and a soundtrack consisting entirely of Queen. Seems a bit on the nose, doesn’t it? Since it does feel like the world is ending right outside our windows. However, it’s also nice to indulge a little in the possibility that there are higher powers watching over us. And ultimately, this is a story about humanity and how far we’ve come.

Tehran, Iran – Persepolis (Graphic Novel/Film)

A coming of age story, Persepolis chronicles the author Marjane Satrapi’s experience growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. I must admit that I knew very little about Iran beyond what my International Relations class taught me, and this book opened my eyes to the importance of first-person accounts. In an age where our media and popular discourse is filled with geopolitical rhetoric, it’s easy to make the mistake of equating a people and a culture with their government. It’s crucial, especially in this crisis, for us to hold on to our compassion and not jump to conclusions about parts of the world we might not understand so well.

Wuhan, China – A Bite of China (Documentary)

"A Bite of China" covers the historical and cultural origins of cuisines across China.

China Central Television

“A Bite of China” covers the historical and cultural origins of cuisines across China.

I remember watching this documentary late at night when it first came out. The amazing cinematography of the abundance of cuisines across the country always made me hungry, and then I’d realize (with great disappointment) that I only had ramen in my dorm room. Thankfully, the country is slowly coming back to life as the outbreak seems to be under control, which means restaurants are finally allowed to reopen. I would still recommend this documentary to anyone who’s curious about what Chinese people actually eat, though. You’ll soon see that there’s already more food than anyone could eat in an entire lifetime — eating bats has never actually crossed most people’s minds.

 

Andrea Yang is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at ayang@cornellsun.com. Five Minutes ‘Til Places runs alternate Mondays this semester.