Innocents Abroad

Director: Les Blank

Institute History

  • 1992 Sundance Film Festival


Americans traveling in Europe. The mind boggles, pictures flash through one’s brain: ugly Americans in Bermuda shorts on big buses with an “if this is Tuesday, this must be Belgium” itinerary. And the reality? In this charming, insightful and yes, funny!, look at a busload of American tourists, the archetypal images don’t hold up. The film explores in lighthearted and generally sympathetic fashion European and American stereotypes of each other and ultimately updates the old fashioned clichés. The itinerary closely follows the traditional nineteenth-century “Grand Tour.” Starting in London and continuing through the great sights and highlights of Europe (including Amsterdam, Heidelberg, the Black Forest in Germany, Lucerne and Innsbruck and Venice, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Nice, Avignon and finally Paris), we follow our tour guide, a witty, intelligent, indomitable Englishman, of course! And in really getting to know these middle-class Americans who are traveling, and who represent a mixture of ethnic groups and a diversity of ages, we are caught up in the spirit and good humor of the very people we might have expected to mock.

Les Blank’s reputation precedes him, and his intimate camera work and the disarming interviews and revelations provide us with a delightful portrait. Blank’s past work on American folk life obviously serves the creators of the film well here, for Innocents continues his vein of celebrating the idiosyncrasies of ordinary people, just folks. A wonderful musical score, ranging from Dylan and other folk standards to Chuck Berry, gives the film color. Innocents Abroad is a delightful look at a “tour” many of us may never take, but it’s a real pleasure to have been able to get in on.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details


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