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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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The most emblematic rooms in movies

From Matthew Kerchner, Bloomington, IN:

You made reference to the interesting room of the monster in "Pan’s Labyrinth," a room that reminded me of the hall in the silent version of "The Fall of the House of Usher," and it got me thinking of if there’s a set of iconic rooms in film history and if there are any patterns to these rooms.

Rooms from Xanadu in "Citizen Kane"? Okay, maybe the one with the fireplace. The den of "The Godfather"? Sure. Rick’s Café American? Yep, no doubt. The list goes on: Hannibal Lector’s jail cell. The war room in "Dr. Strangelove." The room where the giant laser was pointed at James Bonds’ crotch. The ward in "One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest." The dance floor in "Saturday Night Fever." The castle interior of "The Wizard of Oz." Amadeus in the opera house, with an audience behind him as he propels his orchestra forward with arms waving.

To say nothing of other well-known interiors that aren’t rooms, like the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon.

I’m excluding from this rooms where famous scenes have taken place but the interiors did not become iconic, like the courtroom where Tom Cruise demanded that Jack Nicholson’s character to tell the truth.

What I’ve wondered after this (very very) preliminary survey is: where are the women?

1) While there are some rooms that are iconic in which men and women both play a significant role (like the 50’s diner where Uma Thurman and John Travolta dance), are there any interiors where women are directly connected to that room? We see Hannibal in his cell, we can imagine Dr. Strangelove in his war room. What female characters are understood in the general collective consciousness to be situated in a specific room? Where do we picture Ripley from the "Alien" trilogy?

2) And what about exteriors? We can see John Wayne against the skyline in "The Searchers." We can see Alec Guinness in front of the bridge he’s about to blow up in "The Bridge on the River Kwai." We can see Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper on their choppers, rolling down the highway. Again, where are the women?

Where in cinema are any female characters associated with a room or a specific landscape? "Great Expectations," "A Hard Day’s Night," "Lawrence of Arabia," "It’s a Wonderful Life," "The Last Picture Show," "Five Easy Pieces"? Nope, not one in the bunch.

Well, okay, there’s Norma Desmond on the staircase, ready for her closeup, and Janet Leigh getting stabbed in the shower. And there’s Dorothy, leaning against some hay in miserable black-and-white Kansas. But these seem the exception, not the rule (and none are positive portraits: insanity, murder victim, or lonely on the plains).

Am I noticing something, or am I just not versed enough in film history to see where this isn’t the case?

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