Summer is here, and so is our collective need for sun and swimming. That feeling of wanderlust is all the more powerful when you’re sitting behind a desk and all you can do is stare outside the window and dream of the South of France. To quench that thirst for the summer, here are a few films that took place on the French Riviera.
A sun-soaked drama about sexual possessiveness and jealousy. Charm exudes from this film, not only from the youth and charisma of its leading actors, Alain Delon and Romy Schneider, but also the incredible chemistry between them which radiates on screen.
When a writer and his girlfriend are joined by her ex-lover and his daughter, tensions rise against the stunning backdrop of the Cote d’Azur.
Jeune & Jolie
François Ozon’s masterful dive into the sexual exploration of a Parisian teenage girl opens in the south of France during Summer. Ozon makes the most of this hot atmosphere in his depiction of Isabelle, the main character, whose devil-may-care attitude and cold lust kicks off her time as a teenage prostitute. The weather is pleasant, the main occupation is lying on the beach and passions are high.
To Catch a Thief
This film has become mythic for its outstanding cinematic qualities as well as for the legendary real-world romance that it helped create. Uniting Cary Grant as a retired burglar with Grace Kelly, his romantic interest, this is the master of suspense working his magic at its finest.
Hitchcock shot against the stunning backdrop of Monaco, shortly before Grace Kelly met Prince Rainier, who she would eventually marry.
And God Created Woman
In a single film, New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard single-handedly created two myths: he put Saint-Tropez on the map at a time when it was just a fishermen’s village, and he created Brigitte Bardot. Her character magnified her sexy persona as she is caught in her passion for two brothers. Although not her first film, this is the one which truly made the young actress ‘Brigitte Bardot’.
Magic in the Moonlight
American literature majors seem to be Woody Allen’s target audience in this 2014 film, as he steals the atmosphere of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books while weaving a plot concerned with Allen’s usual themes: magic, belief, life and death, and the tension between the need for hope and a grim reality.
It’s far from Allen’s best, but it does use the charm of its setting incredibly well and, as usual, showcases very good performances from its lead actors, Colin Firth and Emma Stone.
La Nuit américaine
Rarely has the concept of a film within a film worked so well, and La Nuit américaine‘s elegance is in no small part due to its direction by a master of film: New Wave director François Truffaut.
The film chronicles the throes of making a film and blurs the lines between reality and fiction in a way which had never been done before and has hardly been seen since. Truffaut shot in Nice, France.
This one does not technically take place in the south of France, but the Colin Firth vignette mostly happens in his writer’s retreat in Provence. In a courting of few words between him and his Portuguese housekeeper, their blossoming romance provides one of the most minimalist and touching storylines in the film. Firth’s passionate epiphany causes him to jump on a plane direct to Marseille and chase her through the streets of a town that’s warm even at Christmastime.
This is a French comedy that actually works really well. Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) is about to marry someone her father disapproves of so he hires a professional heartbreaker, played with stunning charm by Romain Duris.
While the overall story is sort of formulaic, the concept provides room for an insane number of funny situations. Ultimately the film works because of the heartfelt relationship between the main actors which, alongside the Monaco backdrop, makes the film insanely enjoyable.
The book was a blockbuster and the film became almost as iconic. A seventeen-year-old daughter and her father are spending an uneventful, lazy summer on the French Riviera until his girlfriend joins them and the teenager’s habit of being in the company of older men kicks in.
The novel was a hit because the themes of boredom, lust and romance were incredibly new in the 50’s, but this was all the more provocative when they were tackled by an eighteen-year-old writer whose life was eerily like that of her character. Otto Preminger directed the classic starring Jean Seberg and David Niven.
A French film about the French Connection a few years before William Friedkin’s classic, it features two of the most iconic French actors, Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo, as gangsters who are initially fighting for a girl before turning their rivalry into a fruitful partnership.
It has since been acclaimed as one of the best gangster movies in film history, and if you’re thinking of enjoying corruption stories against Marseille’s backdrop, you’d better watch this one on a loop instead of watching the Netflix series.