Welcome to Dirty Coast’s unofficial and utterly un-definitive list of the best and worst films ever to be shot in and around New Orleans. What follows is a brief look, two at a time, of the good and bad, the flattering and less so of our humble city on celluloid.
Down by Law
“I had never been to New Orleans when I wrote the script, but I had a lot of images in my head mostly just from the music of New Orleans. That just kind of drew me there….we had a really wild time.”
Synopsis: New Orleans. 1986. A pimp, an unemployed Disc Jockey, and an unflaggingly cheerful Italian tourist are booked and sent to the same cell in OPP. Faced with a lack of more interesting options, they hatch a plan and escape into the swamp (which swamp? Where is this swamp?), wander around, roast a rabbit on a spit, find a strange house with a strange woman, and begrudgingly become sort of friends.
What Works: Tom Waits. Stunning black and white long shots of New Orleans by DP Robby Müller. Film Noir aesthetics in a dark dream city. Shady characters. Screaming for ice cream.
What They Screw Up: OPP is not surrounded by a swamp.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
“I think in Nicolas Cage's case, it's completely demented, and it should be as vile and as debased and as hilarious as it can get."
Synopsis: Nicholas Cage loses his shit.
What Works: This movie is crazy. Cage plays a corrupt cop who does a bunch of coke, shakes down a bunch of people, complains about his back hurting, almost shoots an old lady, and throws in with vengeful gangsters…who he later murders. The mounting insanity is then seemingly explained through a series of long close ups of iguanas. Also Xzibit.
What They Screw Up: As far as portraits of the city go, this one is not so flattering. Herzog portrays post-Katrina New Orleans as pure gangland. The movie also really has no logic. Which can be good or bad depending on your perspective.