Southwest France is a Film Location Again         

Some places are simply made to be film sets. Our region has more than its fair share of photogenic locations for films based in the past. It’s relatively unspoilt, boasts some magnificent scenery and has more atmospheric towns and villages than you can shake a stick at. It was no surprise, then, to learn this week that a local venue has been chosen to grace the silver screen once again.

Location history

This time it’s not Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val (above), although that haunting riverside town has been the setting for two films shot in recent decades.

First came Charlotte Gray (2001), adapted from the novel by Sebastian Faulks and set during World War II. The directors changed all the shop fronts and made other cosmetic alterations to remove any trace of modernity while filming took place. And then changed it all back afterwards. They also recruited local people as extras.

Terracotta rooftops of Saint-Antonin by the Aveyron

A Saint-Antonin restaurateur told me proudly that Cate Blanchett, one of the film’s stars, ate in her restaurant regularly during filming. She also told me what she ate (not very much, I understand). I had better not say more, or I might get sued.

The town was not the only local location used in that film. La Chapelle de Notre-Dame-des-Grâces, just outside Lacapelle-Livron, also appeared in it. This tiny chapel occupies a prominent outcrop overlooking the Bonnette Valley, with a wonderful view over the unspoilt, green countryside.

Notre Dame des Grâces

Filmmakers commandeered Saint-Antonin again in 2013 for The Hundred-Foot Journey, starring Helen Mirren, also based on a novel. Since the story is based in the present day, the town needed less tweaking.

Aveyron location

This year, it’s the turn of Villefranche-de-Rouergue, just over the départemental border from us in Aveyron. This is one of my favourite local towns. It’s the sort of place I love to wander around, since it has all sorts of nooks and alleyways and architectural quirks.

Pont des Consuls, Villefranche-de-Rouergue

Like Saint-Antonin, Villefranche sits by the River Aveyron, although most of the town is built on a hill. Like all bastides, it was constructed to a grid pattern of parallel streets with a large, arcaded square in the middle. A huge collégiale (cathedral) dominates the square.

Collégiale de Notre-Dame at Villefranche.

This time, Netflix are coming to town. They are making a series of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, set during World War II. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that the parts that take place in France are set mostly in Paris and Saint-Malo in Brittany. Netflix will film in Saint-Malo, but they have chosen Villefranche as an additional location.

Villefranche is nowhere near Saint-Malo. Neither is it anywhere near the sea. However, it shares cobbled streets, narrow alleys and atmospheric charm with Saint-Malo, so I guess it’s not a bad choice. Netflix will need to make the same kind of changes to shop fronts etc. as with other films. And no doubt it will cause a certain amount of disruption to municipal life.

Medieval fountain

However, Villefranche has been a town in decline, at least in the centre, over the past 20 years or so. Turning it into a film location might at least bring support for local shops, restaurants and hotels, even if only temporarily. And if it brings a few more tourists in, that can’t be bad, either.

Netflix are looking for 500 extras. The women have to have long hair, which rules me out, and the men have to be prepared to let their hair grow a bit and be clean-shaven. Casting is going on now, and filming will take place in late June and July.

In other news

The blogging rate has been down a bit, partly because the garden was calling stridently over Easter, and partly because we were both struck by Covid. Thankfully, in each case it hasn’t been particularly severe, and we are both on the mend, although I am still in quarantine for a few days.

If you follow French news/current affairs, you’ll know that tomorrow (Sunday 24th April) is Round 2 of the presidential elections. After Round 1, the contenders are the sitting President, Emmanuel Macron, and the Rassemblement National candidate, Marine Le Pen. A disappointed candidate in Round 1, Jean-Luc Mélenchon (la France Insoumise), who came within a whisker of beating Le Pen, enjoined his party afterwards to “Fais mieux !” (do better).

Both candidates have been in election purdah since midnight last night. Over the election weekend, no canvassing, electioneering or opinion polling are allowed to take place in France.

The traditional televised debate between the two candidates took place on Thursday: more than two and a half hours of them slugging it out in front of 15.5 m spectators. Macron was considered to have had a better command of the issues and the facts but was thought to have been overconfident and dismissive.

However, Guillaume Erner, the linkman for France Culture’s morning radio show, said the arrogance bit shouldn’t come as a surprise, since one could hardly accuse any President of the 5th Republic of modesty. Even Hollande (Erner said), who aspired to be a “normal” president, was known for not listening and for taking all the decisions himself. Plus ça change, alors.

That’s all I’m going to say about politics. I’ll see you on the other side of the election. In the meantime, stay well.

Fountains in the market square at Villefranche-de-Rouergue

You might also like these related posts

Copyright © Life on La Lune 2022. All rights reserved.               

13 comments

  1. Hi Vanessa.
    Belated reply to your blog. Really pleased Netflix are making a film of that book. I loved it so thank you for passing it on – I will keep an eye out for it in the future.
    MJ

    Liked by 1 person

    • I enjoyed the book, although I recall not being convinced by the ending. However, I’ll be interested to see it on the screen, especially since I know one of the locations very well!

      Like

  2. Sincere best wishes to you for a total recovery from Covid. Just this morning I read the dietary inclusions of a professional singer to protect her voice box!. She pours boiling water over chopped garlic and drinks it, and at times adds to this ginger and Manuka honey which sounds incredibly medicinal and good.

    We are watching the French elections from Australia…. I robustly declared to my partner after reading analysis & opinion pieces published in the New York Times this morning that France surely does not need a president who would be 20 million euros in debt to Russian “banks”?

    I also declared robustly that the French rural people whinging about their pensions, lamenting “the onslaught of globalism” would no doubt give their all to leave their beloved rural idylls (spending their pensions on kir and horse racing in many cases) to live in the Côte d’Azur brushing side by side with international billionaires. That region too, is France.

    Internationalism reigns in France’s reliance on tourism., amongst other industries. The economies of Paris, Bordeaux, Biarritz, and Provence are living proof of this.

    We spent 3 months travelling through south west, centre and north west of France during the 2017 elections. We saw many ingrained social problems in some rural places. Other places (mostly medium sized cities with progressive governance) were delightful places with friendly informed citizens.

    Another bug bear observation on French moaning in this election about rural France “missing out” is that no one is mentioning the now historic uprise of agribusiness, as in mega farms where growing crops is done overwhelmingly by huge machinery requiring very few employees. This is a global phenomenon, not just a French one but with France’s strong history of its paysan as loud voices for the rights of farmers the employment of farm workers has surely dwindled significantly. Children of the majority of old farming families prefer to live and work in Paris and other French cities.

    Let us hope (a profound hope) that France receives a fair minded centrist president who would not be a puppet to the Russian state.

    Get completely well soon and thank you for your meticulous and beautifully crafted blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind wishes. I feel tired, but the other symptoms seem to have gone. I know garlic has many medicinal properties. We eat a fair bit of it, but it hadn’t occurred to me to try it as an infusion.

      Well, whoever is elected today has a raft of problems facing them, both in France and internationally. It will be interesting to see how things look in five years’ time.

      Thank you also for the kind words about the blog. My little indulgence!

      Like

  3. Sorry to hear you caught Covid and good to hear you are both on the mend. I sometimes think it is just a matter of time before we all succumb, especially now it is just part of ‘living with Covid’ and people have relaxed.
    From feeling we will never return to France, we are now cautiously thinking we may take a chance and hopefully return in Spring next year. Co- incidentally, we have recently been looking at gites in the Aveyron around Villefranche, so your post is interesting. We stayed a week in the Aveyron in 2012 but would love to revisit some of the places we saw. It seems a long time ago.
    Winter is approaching here, so Spring in France sounds very appealing. We are watching the elections in France with interest.
    Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are starting to feel that it’s becoming a question not of who has got it, but who hasn’t got it. Some estimates reckon 70% of British people have or have had Covid, for example. I don’t know equivalent figures for France.

      It’s good to hear that you are making a plan to come over next year. There’s a lot to see in Aveyron and such beautiful countryside. I hope you get to stay there.

      We will be glued to the TV for the results at 8 pm tonight.

      Like

  4. Do hope you and your husband are feeling better. We can’t wait to get back to Villefranche de Rouergue. Covid put a stop to our annual visit to the Aveyron. Three years ago there were many shops in the town that had closed including a lovely earring shop that provided me with earrings that were different. Fortunately there is and hopefully still is a newish craft shop just down from the square that sells beautiful things made by local crafts people. Tried to watch le débat entre Macron et Le Pen. They both spoke so fast it was well nigh impossible to understand. Is France in for le shock I wonder?
    Margot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. My husband is over it completely. I caught it from him, so I am still in recovery mode, but getting better.

      Villefranche has become rather sad in the past couple of decades, with many shops closing down. The Thursday market is still extensive and lively, though.

      I managed just over an hour of the debate, but had to retire with Covid fatigue. I sincerely hope France doesn’t get the kind of shock you imply, since those of us foreigners who live here might suffer as a result. And not just us. The polls put Macron ahead, so I hope they are right.

      Like

  5. Glad to hear you’re both on the mend. Your posts always remind me of how much I visit visiting France. Once retirement beckons and we have some free time I’d like to think those opportunities will happen as I know my OH feels the same.

    Liked by 1 person

I'd love to know your thoughts. Please do comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.