I thought I’d put together a list of 10 Great Films Set In The French Riviera (in no particular order).
1. And God Created Woman (1956)
The film that supposedly made Brigitte Bardot famous overnight. The iconic opening scene, which features Bardot sunbathing naked, provoked controversy at the time. The film was therefore censored heavily before being released in the United States, as scenes such as these were seen to transgress the boundaries of what was acceptable to be broadcasted on screen.
2. Bonjour Tristesse (1958)
After the production of And God Created Woman earlier in the 50s, the Riviera became a popular destination for filmmakers as well as tourists. This adaption of Françoise Sagan’s scandalous novel of the same name was filmed in the midst of this craze. What I find most interesting about the film are the transitions between black and white and coloured scenes, which reinforce the contrast between Cécile’s life in Paris when she is older, and flashbacks to her younger self spending a summer in the French Riviera.
3. Jeune et Jolie (2013)
This film is by my one of my favourite directors, François Ozon. It is split up into four sections: Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. The first section takes place in the South of France, where Isabelle and her family are taking a holiday. A controversial film, it explores a 17-year-old girl’s decision to become a prostitute on the side of her school work.
4. Swimming Pool (2003)
A thriller, also directed by François Ozon. A British crime novelist takes a break from London by briefly staying at her publisher’s house in the South of France. There, she unexpectedly runs into Julie, her publisher’s daughter. Throughout the film, the director seamlessly weaves the plot of the novel that the protagonist is writing with the events of the film, playing metafictional games with the audience and finishing with an ambiguous conclusion, characteristic of Ozon.
Both of the protagonists are bilingual, so the dialogue throughout the film switches between French and English.
5. Jean de Florette (1986)
Based on a novel by Marcel Pagnol, the film is set on a farm in rural Provence. It stars three of France’s most famous actors: Gérard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil and Yves Montand. It is a period drama, which promotes the rich culture, history and landscape of France. It serves an interesting contrast to the other films on this list, as it focuses on life in a rural village in Southern France as opposed to the seaside towns.
6. Priceless (2006)
A romantic comedy starring Gad Elmaleh Audrey Tautou, a gold digger who mistakenly believes Jean to be a millionaire. He is actually a dog walker for the rich people who live in the neighbourhood.
7. Cockles and Mussels (2005)
One of the funniest films I have seen. The film is part-farce, part-musical. The plot follows a family holiday on the Côte d’Azur, and is full of unexpected twists and turns. What differentiates this film from other farces I have seen is its exploration of homosexuality, which makes it particularly interesting.
8. Paris When it Sizzles (1964)
A romantic comedy starring William Holden and Audrey Hepburn. As the title suggests, this film is mostly set in Paris, but there are some scenes filmed in Antibes at the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc. These scenes particularly portray the glamour of the Riviera.
9. To Catch a Thief (1990)
A Hitchcock thriller starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, this film is full of comedy and suspense. It’s also full of stunning scenery shots of the Côte d’Azur. The hilarious scene involving a brawl in a village flower market is a personal favourite.
10. Mr Bean’s Holiday (2007)
A really funny film involving Mr Bean’s eventful and adventurous journey to the South of France. He makes his own film when he is there (so meta) and even ends up accidentally crashing the Cannes Film Festival.
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