On Location: 40 Days and 40 Nights


Welcome to "On Location," a micro-feature taking you to little-known cinematic locations of SF and taking a look at the films shot in the city by the bay over the years.

Heathers director Michael Lehman was on the verge of a very long exile from Hollywood when he directed the tech boom romance 40 Days and 40 Nights, he just didn't know it. Perhaps the fact that he was rehashing material from his first short "Beaver Gets a Boner" should have given him some indication. Containing an alarming number of scenes in which he gets a boner, the Josh Harnett vehicle 40 Days is an odd hybrid of teen comedy, sweet romance, and bro-centric sex farce that feels weirdly at home here in Lehman's own hometown.

The plot of 40 Days concerns "Matt" (Josh Hartnett), a 20-something layout designer in San Francisco who just… can't… stop… having… sex after his "hottie" girlfriend (who we know mostly from shaky second-unit footage in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and one strangely well-appointed version of Haight Street) breaks up with him and tears a hole out of his heart. In an attempt to get over her, and spurred on by his brother in the priesthood, Matt takes a vow to abstain from sex for Lent and the titular time period begins. Unfortunately, he meets "Erica" (Shannyn Sossamon) at a laundromat (which reminds of SoMA coffee shop/laundry palace BrainWash though it's actually a set in Kauai where most of the San Francisco stand-in scenes were filmed) and the two begin a bizarre courtship, while the man-boys in the office take up a betting pool and the omnipresent eye of the internet watches on.

The thing that's most interesting for me about 40 Days (outside of a dreamy Sossamon in her prime) is that it's a movie about San Francisco, filmed in San Francisco, long after it was fashionable, or economically rewarding, to do so. It's not too bad of a portrait of tech boom-era San Francisco either. Evidenced in the movie's thank-yous, which are a mixed bag of unrecognizable and more familiar tech names–Netvista by IBM, Travelocity, XO Communications–the romance of that era and SF as a creative class fantasyland is lurking behind the scenes in every frame, and is probably behind part of its funding as well. The backdrop of 40 Days is filled with time-stamping dot com details, from a massive poster for the now-defunct web currency "Beenz" that backdrops one of the shorter outdoor scenes, to the preponderance of "Wall Street" Macbooks and colorful iMacs floating around Matt's open-plan, exposed brick office. For her part, Erica works at an internet filtering company called Cybernanny, which, albeit fake, rings of a monitoring company where a friend once worked down on 2nd Street.

Since it's the dot-com era, Matt naturally spends most of his time away from work tapping away on his Macbook in a coffeeshop. Made slight before SF's obsession with artisinal beans began, Days makes Matt's go-to Crepes on Cole, perhaps because of its lovely view of the N Judah, which, right or wrong, screams San Francisco to anyone that's been here only once. Matt and Erica's relationship also reaches its most delirious heights (outside of a sex-less sex scene an obviously turned-on Roger Ebert called "unreasonably erotic", likely thanks to Sossamon's performance) during a date on Muni, a feat I personally defy anyone to replicate on today's 14-Misson.