This blog post will go into great detail on how Richard Serra’s Last Supper (2005) was actually shot. The film was originally titled The Last Supper after Pablo Picasso’s painting of the same name, which was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. I found out about the film through The New York Times’ great review of the art exhibition that accompanied the film. It has since become one of my favourite films, and I highly recommend it. It’s a truly beautiful and artistic meditation on the fragility of life and the inevitability of tragedy. If you’re a fan of classical music, you’ll enjoy its score by Howard Shore, which he composed for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. You can also catch the movie’s sequel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009), which is also directed by Daniel Westerberg. I’ve always loved that this post exists, as it gives me an excuse to discuss my favourite film.
To start things off, let’s take a quick look at how the locations for this film were chosen and what role they played in the story. We’ll begin with the Palais de Louvre, the world’s greatest museum, which is a stone’s throw away from the hotel where the story takes place. As the name would suggest, the building is home to the Musée du Louvre, which has one of the greatest art collections in the world. The building is the largest in Paris and was originally built in 1900. As a cinematic location, it would be impossible to find a more magnificent setting. The sheer size of the building would dwarf most film sets, and the fact that it’s right next to a hotel would make this location perfect for a thriller. The building’s sheer scale would serve as a breathtaking backdrop for any action scene.
Next on our list is the Place Vendôme, a short distance from the Louvre. This is one of the city’s most famous streets, famed for its luxury shops, such as Dior, Fendi, and others. Unfortunately, the original design of the street was built in 1910, so in order to film there the sets had to be reconstructed, brick by brick, using computer-generated imagery. While there were extensive renovations in 1914, the street’s original designer, Haussmann, would probably turn in his grave at the sight of what has become of his creation. For film-makers looking for an authentic Parisian street, this is as good as it gets. If you’ve ever visited Paris, then you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.
The Grand Gallery
The opulent setting of the Hotel de Crillon is perhaps the most photographed building in the world. It was designed by the French architect, Eugene Viollet, and completed in 1864. The hotel’s owner, the Comte de Beauregard, commissioned the great French artist, Jean Baptiste Debret, to paint a series of murals for him in his hotel’s salons. One of the best-known paintings in the hotel is Debret’s The Great Exhibition of 1867, which depicts a visit by Emperor Napoleon III and the Prince of Wales to the Paris Universal Exposition. The Emperor is looking directly at the viewer, challenging you to stare back. While this may not be the best place to stay if you’re looking for peace and quiet, when it comes to filming a thriller, this is as good as it gets.
The Hôtel Modian
Back in 1896, the great French composer, Georges Bizet, decided to move to the USA and bought a plot of land in the Hollywood Hills. He called it Mount Olympus and built a great house on it. He named the street that runs in front of the house after himself, and it now bears his name, Georges Bizet Way. It’s said that he and his family spent a lot of their time in this house wandering the garden, listening to classical music and spending time with friends. His daughter, Émilie, grew quite a large garden in the back, and guests at the hotel would often come back to enjoy the view and her work.
In 1960, the house was bought by a French businessman who lived there with his family. When the company he worked for relocated to the Middle East, he decided to stay in LA and rent out his mansion. It became the Chateau Marmont, a hotel with a difference, where everyone – guests, staff, and locals – know their place and behave in an appropriate manner. This sense of respect is something that the Marmont brings with it everywhere it goes. Even people who don’t stay there, but live nearby, know that the hotel is a special place and keep an eye out for it when they visit Paris.
The George Washington University
While we’re on the subject of famous buildings, let’s take a quick look at the George Washington University, which is a public university in Washington, DC. The university’s scenic arts complex was originally designed by Russell Kirk and opened in 1964. It’s named after the university’s founding father, George Washington, and was inspired by his farewell address, which is now on display outside the main entrance. The complex is made up of two great halls, the Barnes Concert Hall and the Phillips Gallery. This is where the American art collection is on display, as it features many famous artists from America’s prestigious art history classes. The halls are used for functions, such as school concerts and graduations, so it gets a lot of traffic. The university’s landscape architects made sure to include topiary, specimen trees, and gravel paths, which make the whole place look more like a private residence than a school.
Other locations that appeared in the film include the Musée d’Orsay, the Pompidou Centre, the Grand Palais, and Place de la Concorde. You’ll find the full list of locations and their coordinates here. These places all have something unique to offer film-makers, as they all have breathtaking views of the city that could be used to great effect for a thriller. We can’t leave the topic of locations without mentioning the great work of our team at Picturesque Paris – we helped the film-makers with locations, researched the history of the buildings, and composed a full report, which you can read here. We have many more spots around Paris that would work perfectly for a thriller. If you’ve ever seen the film, then you’ll know exactly where we’re talking about.
How It Was Shot
Now that we’ve had a quick tour of the scenic locations of Last Supper, it’s time to take a look at how the film was actually shot and how the creative team went about making it the masterpiece that it is. This section will be extremely detailed and may take a while to read, so take your time and enjoy the ride.
As mentioned, the film is based on a real-life incident that happened in 1914. At the time, Pablo Picasso was painting, and his friend, Julio Lanceros, had recently died, which inspired the artist to create a painting that would express his friend’s essence. After Julio’s death, Picasso was inspired to create his own memorial to the man he had loved and who had inspired countless paintings over the years. The artist decided to name the piece, “The Afternoon of a Warrior”, and it would become one of his most famous, and most reproduced, paintings. As mentioned, the film is loosely based on this incident, and much of it was shot on location at the Hotel de Crillon. The painting that appears in the film is an altered version of “The Afternoon of a Warrior”, and it is painted in a more modern and cinematic style. This was a deliberate move on the part of the filmmakers, as they wanted the painting to seem as realistic as possible.
The first scene that you’ll most likely remember from the film is the one where we see the characters arrive at the great Hotel de Crillon and check in to their respective rooms. It starts with a long, shaky shot that eventually settles down as the camera follows the guests’ every move, as they look for their keys and take their bags to their rooms. While this is a continuous take, the camera still moves around a bit as we follow the movements of the other guests, who are doing the exact same thing. It’s a great way to introduce the viewer to the hotel and its guests, and it establishes the intimacy of the event, as we’re experiencing it with the characters right now.
Once in their rooms, the guests open their windows and look out at the magnificently decorated streets below. The filmmakers chose this point in the story as a way to establish the breathtaking nature of the locations. Once the characters realize that they’re in for a wild ride, they begin to wonder how a simple robbery could end up being such a disaster. These shots of the hotel’s windows are a great example of how the filmmakers used the windows and their views to their advantage, as they create a sense of claustrophobia, which escalates as the story progresses.