Brigitte Bardot in And God Created Woman.....The fabulous landscapes and remarkable characters of Provence have inspired some great films - so why not snuggle down and dream of the South with a classic movie?

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And, if you're back from holiday, why not revive those memories by picking a story set in the same pretty village, charming coastal port or bustling city you stayed in? Our reviews below mention where each film was shot.

Wherever their location, they all capture the very varied essences of Provence. Some are iconic masterpieces of world cinema. Some are sneaky popcorn treats.

Click on the links to buy any, or all, of them, or visit our shop. And, if you can't stand subtitles, click here to read about A Good Year, Love Actually and other (lesser) English-language films set in Provence.

Swimming Pool (2003)

Swimming Pool DVD sleeveCharlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier star in an intriguing murder mystery set in the Luberon. Rampling plays a middle-aged crime writer working on her new detective thriller at her publisher's gorgeous villa, complete with pool (the film was shot in Ménerbes). All goes, well, swimmingly, until the unannounced arrival of the publisher's trashy illegitimate French daughter (Sagnier). Horns lock. Then, slowly but surely, a sort of role reversal takes place: the desiccated Englishwoman blooms in the Midi sun, and becomes mysterious and seductive. Director François Ozon fashions all this into a wickedly suggestive tale whose serpentine twists and elegant, unsettling style evoke Hitchcock. Find Swimming Pool on Amazon

And God... Created Woman / Et Dieu... Créa la Femme (1956)

DVD cover of And God Created WomanBrigitte Bardot and Saint Tropez make for a lethal cocktail in a gloriously pulpy tale of an amoral, sexually voracious orphan who cuts a swathe through Eurotrash society. Shot in CinemaScope and directed by her brand-new husband, Roger Vadim, the film made Bardot, then 22, into an international star and pedigree sex kitten overnight. In some of the steamier scenes she smoulders naked on white sheets and dances herself into an orgasmic frenzy to the beat of Brazilian drums. Bébé is the film's undisputed star, closely followed by Saint Trop, the fab 1950s fashions and the va-va-voom cars. Definitely not to be confused with the 1988 remake, also directed by Vadim but starring a less lustrous Rebecca De Mornay. Find And... God Created Woman on Amazonimage!

Jean de Florette & Manon des Sources (1986)

DVD cover of Jean de Florette and Manon des SourcesThese two films, enormous arthouse hits in 1986, defined a mythic Provence for international audiences and sparked a huge increase in tourism to southern France. Based on two of Marcel Pagnol's best-known works, they take place in the high, bleak, beautiful hills of Aubagne, outside Marseille, where the writer spent much of his childhood and which he knew intimately. Set in the early 20th century, the stories tell the tragic tale of Jean de Florette, a hunchback, played in the film by Gérard Depardieu, who moves there from the city and is cheated out of his farm by ruthless peasants (Yves Montand and Daniel Auteuil). Manon des Sources introduced the world to Emmanuelle Béart as Jean's gorgeous nymph-like daughter who takes a terrible vengeance on these men who wronged her family. Pagnol himself made a movie of Manon in 1952 starring his wife, Jacqueline, though it's currently unavailable on DVD. And, over two decades later, Auteuil returned to Pagnol in a well-regarded version of The Well-Digger's Daughter,which also signalled his own directorial debut, followed by Pagnol's Marius-Fanny-César trilogy. Find Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources on Amazon

The Horseman on the Roof / Le Hussard sur le Toit (1995)

DVD cover of The Horseman on the RoofThis swirling, sumptuous historical romance paired Juliette Binoche and Oliver Martinez in an affair that mirrored their off-screen relationship. Based on the 1951 novel by Jean Giono, one of Provence's most famous writers, it's set in the early 19th century and the wild, haunting hinterland of Manosque in Haute-Provence and chronicles their turbulent romance against the backdrop of a cholera epidemic. Jean-Paul Rappeneau directs, fresh from the success of his 1990 arthouse blockbuster Cyrano de Bergerac. Stand by for sword fights, derring-do, passionate clinches, rooftop escapes, stupendous scenery. Find The Horseman on the Roof on Amazonimage!

Let's Talk about the Rain / Parlez-moi de la Pluie (2007)

DVD cover of Let's Talk About the RainThe rain? In Provence? Expect the unexpected in a sly, clever skewering of hypocrisy, betrayal and prejudice written by the powerhouse acting-directing team of Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri (The Taste Of Others; Look At Me). Jaoui also stars in the film, as a smug feminist who reluctantly returns to the hometown in the Alpilles that she thought she had long left behind her to run for political office. Jamel Debbouze, one of France's most phenomenally popular stand-up comedians, plays her childhood friend, a talented loser who hopes to improve his lot by making a documentary about her. Find Let's Talk About The Rain on Amazonimage!

Marius, Fanny, César (1931-1936)

DVD cover of Marius, Fanny, CesarMarcel Pagnol is the pre-eminent writer of Marseille, where he grew up, and his bittersweet romantic trilogy, based on his successful stage plays, celebrates a milieu which he knew like the back of his hand. Fanny is a shellfish seller on the Old Port of Marseille, César is a bar-owner and Marius is his son, who impregnates Fanny, then runs off to pursue the real love of his life, the sea. Noisy pétanque and card games are played, much pastis is drunk, arguments are had and reconciliations effected in many salty scenes which - though often stiffly shot - are classics of French cinema. Indispensable viewing for anyone who wants to understand the secret spirit of the city. The Marius-Fanny-César trilogy was remade in 2012-3 by the actor-turned-director Daniel Auteuil. Find Marcel Pagnol's Marius-Fanny-Cesar trilogy on Amazon

 

An Autumn Tale / Conte d'automne (1998)

DVD cover of An Autumn TaleWe're in a small vineyard in the Rhône Valley, somewhere on the border between Provence and Rhône-Alps, during a glorious Indian summer. The grape harvest is being celebrated and romance could be in the air for the local vigneron and her best friend. They might be middle-aged but they're mellowing just as well as fine vintage wines, if only chance would smile on them for once and they could become mistresses of their destinies. Instead of being set against melancholy drifts of dead leaves and the waning years, A Tale of Autumn (part of a "four seasons" film cycle) is steeped in an infectiously sunny and indulgent mood. Eric Rohmer, who died in 2010, aged 89, was one of France's greatest directors and his graceful, literate, lightly ironic comedies are ageing well, not least this modest, cherishable classic. Find An Autumn Tale on Amazonimage!

Marius and Jeannette (1997)

DVD cover of Marius and JeannetteL'Estaque, the gritty yet picturesque little port just outside Marseille made famous by Paul Cézanne, is the backdrop for this warm-hearted love story about the tentative relationship between a struggling single mother and a security guard at the local cement factory. A whole community is affectionately and vividly portrayed: the director, Robert Guédiguian, was born and grew up here and almost all his films are set in either L'Estaque or Marseille. Often described as the French Ken Loach, he tells politically hard-hitting yet warm-hearted stories about ordinary people you feel you'd like to know better. Find Marius and Jeannette on Amazonimage!

Toni (1935)

DVD cover of ToniKnown as the Venice of the Mediterranean, Martigues is one of Provence's secret tourist treasures today. But Toni, by the great director Jean Renoir (son of the equally great painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir), offers a poignant and fascinating flashback into its past. Toni is a gentle Italian working in a quarry who falls for a flirtatious, spirited Spanish girl. Edged out by a rival, he settles reluctantly for his landlady. The melodramatic story, shot largely on location, inspires a marvellously lively evocation of the multi-national immigrants that have always powered this part of Provence. Renoir - best known for such masterpieces as The Rules of the Game and La Grande Illusion - is a great humanist film-maker and a master of capturing natural landscapes. Find Toni on Amazon

 

RENOIR (2012)

renoir dvd coverJean and Pierre-Auguste Renoir themselves are the subjects of this gentle drama shot in Rayol Canadel sur Mer on the Var coast between Le Lavandou and Saint Tropez. It's the summer of 1915 and Pierre-Auguste, played by the leading veteran actor Michel Bouquet, is continuing to work despite the infirmities of old age. His world is transformed by the arrival of a beautiful 15-year-old model who casts a spell over all the men in the family, becoming the painter's muse and his son's mistress. This isn't, to be honest, one of the all-time great movies. But - like both Renoirs themselves - director Gilles Bourdos lovingly and lavishly captures the region's sun-drenched landscapes. Find Renoir on Amazon

Taxi (1998)

DVD cover of TaxiFor decades Marseille and gangsters have fitted together as snugly as a gun in a holster. You'll find that theme in French films like Borsalino (1970), a period caper starring Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo, both ultra-cool in pin-stripes and fedoras, as well as in Hollwood ones such as French Connection II (1975). The hit Taxi series puts a high-octane, exuberantly comic spin on this tired old genre material, with abundant car and motorbike chases, torrential bullets, spectacular crashes and generous body count, both vehicular and human. A pizza delivery boy who fancies himself as a star driver joins forces with a failed cop in pursuit of German bank robbers. The brainchild of the French super-producer/director Luc Besson, it's one to file under guilty pleasures. Find Taxi on Amazonimage!

LA FRENCH / THE CONNECTION

the connection dvdAs the film's French and English titles both suggest, this is another foray into French Connection II territory - but this time from a European point of view. Set between 1975 and 1981, it's based on the real-life story of an obsessive police magistrate called Pierre Michel who set out on a solitary mission to nail the mafia kingpin running the drugs trade in Marseille. The magistrate is played by the French heartthrob Jean Dujardin, who previously won an Oscar for his virtuoso performance as a troubled silent film star in The Artist (that comedy, itself almost entirely silent, was named Best Picture in 2012). Gilles Lellouche plays his adversary and the director is Cédric Jimenez, who was born in Marseille in 1976 and grew up there while all this was happening. The Connection was shot on location around the city, notably on the Corniche coast road. Find The Connection on Amazonimage!

La Gloire de mon père / My Father's Glory and Le Château de ma mère / My Mother's Castle (1990)

My Father's Glory on DVDDiirector Yves Robert's two films are based on Marcel Pagnol's classic, much-loved childhood memoirs set in Provence at the turn of the century. Little Marcel is a city kid growing up in Marseille. But each summer his family rents a cottage in the hills of Aubagne, where a local lad teaches him all the secrets of the countryside. Both the books and the films are a wonderfully comic-nostalgic and affectionate introduction to the region. If you're in Marseille, you can visit Pagnol's mother's castle, now newly restored and known as the Château de la Buzine. Find My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle on Amazonimage!

Insider tip for films in ProvenceFilm buffs who read and speak good French might be interested in CinéPACA, a free Smartphone app developed by the PACA (Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur) Tourist Office.

It's a guide to 50-plus movie locations all across the region, and includes extracts from classic scenes, poster images, commentaries and an interactive map. You can download CinéPACA for iPhones here and for Androids here.

World Film Locations: Marseilles (sic) is a book-length study of Marseille's cinematic culture. This dates back to the 1890s when the Lumière brothers shot many films there.

In the 1920s the city was even referred to as "the French Los Angeles".

Essays by film scholars and critics explore this heritage from Marcel Pagnol to adaptations of the Marseillais novelist Jean-Claude Izzo and recent work by Robert Guédiguian, Luc Besson and more.

The book is illustrated with maps, high quality screengrabs, and images of movie locations as they appear today. Find World Film Locations: Marseilles on Amazon image!

 

 

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