Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shot in N.O., L.A.

Post-any kind of disaster, there are people, agencies, governments and multinationals out there who rub their hands with glee, for there is money to be made (see Naomi Klein's book Shock Doctrine, which looks at disaster capitalism). The same could be said of film-makers and TV producers who love a bit of (free) post-apocalyptic mise-on-scène.

In recent post-Katrina years New Orleans, Louisiana, has seen its desolation used to cinematic effect in films including The Road (2009) and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (also 2009). Treme – the latest TV series from the writers of The Wire (no, I still haven't seen it) – likewise utilises New Orleans' post-Katrina atmosphere to dramatic effect.

Spike Lee has made two documentaries about post-Katrina New Orleans: When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006) and its follow up, If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise (2010). Several documentaries sprung up in 2010, the five-year anniversary of the disaster: The Sunken City: Rebuilding Post-Katrina New Orleans and Harry Shearer's (yes, the guy who does voiceovers for the Simpsons is a resident of N.O.) The Big Uneasy.

There are films which have ignored the aftermath of Katrina and use New Orleans for its tax breaks and great old buildings, such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (or: The Curious Case of How it Received any Oscar Nominations at All, Let Alone Won Three), 2008, and The Expendables (2010). Finally, there's Disney's The Princess and the Frog (2009), which wins the award for the most New Orleans clichés in one film since Jim McBride's The Big Easy (1986)... though I guiltily enjoyed both of them.

But my favourite New Orleans-set film has to be Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law (1986), starring Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni, with sumptuous black & white photography by Robby Müller.

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