Lumière, caméra, action!
The Belle France Top 10 film locations of France
In the world of film sometimes the location is more a character than a mere setting. The cult eight minute driving movie from 1976 ‘C’Etait Un Rendez-Vous’ shows iconic Parisian landmarks, as well as the ordinary backstreets of a tousle-headed city slowly waking and getting ready to face the day. Arc de Triomphe, Opéra Garnier, Place de la Concorde, Montmartre and more flash across the screen in the murky dawn.
With no dialogue, just plenty of movie-buff theories and a high-revving soundtrack, the result is a quirky, cinéma-vérité one-off that was filmed in a single take and which has puzzled and intrigued ever since.
But there are more conventional locations. More film settings that have captured our imagination via the big screen and which can be visited by anyone hoping for a smidgeon of tinsel town fairy dust.
So we’ve trawled through the IMDb listings, pored over the Oscars archives, flicked through our Netflix accounts and rummaged through our old DVD collections. We’ve pooled our findings and, as a result, our Belle France Top 10 best film locations in France sashay up the red carpet below. And the nominations are…
Love Actually, 2003 Marseille
A film rich in A-list actors as well as A-list locations. Colin Firth’s character spends time in the south of France, where he eventually finds love. Certain scenes were shot in Aix-en-Provence and around the Bouches-du-Rhône. The tumultuous scene where he dashes from London to propose to Aurelia was filmed in the old port of Marseille – the real-life Bar de la Marine still stands on the quayside.
Les Misérables, 2012 Gourdon, Côte d’Azur
Hugh Jackman’s character Valjean overcomes adversity to make it through the mountains and rugged inhospitable terrain around Gourdon, north-east of Grasse in Provence. The route he takes is kind of ‘up and over’ and without proper kit, so definitely not a Belle France route of the easy going variety. But the village is one of France’s Plus Beaux Villages and the surrounding scenery is sublime, dramatic and wild at the same time which just makes you want to, well, sing.
The Da Vinci code, 2006 The Louvre, Paris
A big blockbuster of a museum for a big blockbuster of a movie. The film opens and finishes in the vast interior. How many people since have pretended to be Tom Hanks and looked for the rose line, marked by small brass discs. The Mona Lisa is an obvious highlight, though the inevitable crowds are always a distraction.
Chocolat, 2000 Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, Burgundy
Stroll along the cobbled streets and allées of this picturesque village (another of France’s officially designated Plus Beaux Villages de France) and you’ll be transported to key scenes in the movie where Juliette Binoche and her controversial chocolaterie caused such a stir. Johnny Depp is unlikely to be spotted, no matter how hard you look.
A Good Year, 2006 Luberon, Provence
An evocative, feel-good movie with plenty of Provençal seduction and Russell Crowe doing his moody, broody thing. With Peter Mayle’s ‘A Year in Provence’ always in their mind’s eye, the producers aimed high and chose Gordes, an iconic spot by anyone’s book. The Château la Canorgue vineyard near stunning Bonnieux also stars.
Midnight in Paris, 2011 Giverny, Normandy
While this elegant, whimsical Woody Allen movie is stuffed with loving shots of Paris (hotel Le Bristol, Musée Rodin, the Pantheon, the Left Bank and Latin Quarter) it starts off in Monet’s sensational gardens at Giverny. Owen Wilson’s child-like demeanour enhances the dreamy feel of the film with the vintage Peugeot that whisks him to past times having an almost Narnia-esque feel to it.
Transporter, 2001 Nice, Alpes-Maritime
The Transporter franchise kicked off and continued in subsequent instalments, with silver screen hard man Jason Statham having a spot of bother delivering a package. Not just a pesky sat nav and the old ‘recipient not in’ problem, more the relentless hail of bullets and things blowing up kind of issues. The elegant streets of old Nice and the Promenade des Anglais make a pleasing backdrop for any Yodel driver though.
Amélie, 2001 Café des Deux Moulins, Paris
It didn’t take much to inspire a generation of movie-goers with this idealised portrayal of Montmartre as a breezy, bohemian villagey arrondissement packed with local colour, quirky characters, accordion music and oh-so-chic-but-not-too-smart boutiques scattered along the cobbled streets. Amélie, played by Audrey Tautou, embodies insouciance and dreaminess and will forever be the definition of gamine. The good news is you can visit the café in real life and immerse yourself in the movie moment (and maybe an authentic crème brûlée).
Sherlock Holmes – Game of Shadows, 2011 Strasbourg, Alsace
A bomb goes off outside the gothic cathedral whose imposing proportions and soaring spire lend gravitas to a fast-paced movie. The city does not have a leading role in the film, but its cameo role makes a big impact worthy of star billing alongside Jude Law, Robert Downey Junior and Stephen Fry.
The Hundred Foot Journey, 2014 Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, Tarn
Home of the foodie turf war, raged between the gastronomically obsessed restaurateur and her endearing Indian neighbours who arrive full of culinary passion and ideals. Helen Mirren provided Hollywood glamour but the real star quality comes courtesy of this delightful location which was used for many scenes, including the café and the ancient market square.
Film foodie fun fact: this was directed by Lasse Hallström, who also directed Chocolat, above.
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