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A still from La Piscine, 1969 | © SNC
A still from La Piscine, 1969 | © SNC

14 Filmmakers Who Used the French Riviera's Natural Beauty as a Muse

Picture of Alex Ledsom
Updated: 31 July 2017
Many of the greatest filmmakers, from Jean-Luc Godard to Ridley Scott, have used the French Riviera as their muse to produce some wonderful films. Here’s our list of 14 films which celebrate the area, from Marseille through to Nice.

Ridley Scott – A Good Year

In 2006, Russell Crowe teamed up with Ridley Scott again (after the success of Gladiator) for something that critics took to be a slightly miscast romantic role. Crowe plays a banker who is bequeathed his uncle’s old chateau and vineyard after his death and must decide between his fast-paced London life or Marion Cotillard in small-village France. Ridley uses the sun-drenched vineyards and rose-tinted French village life to maximum effect, much as he did the Italian landscapes in Gladiator.

A Good Year, 2006
A Good Year, 2006 | © Fox 2000/Scott Free Productions

Francois Ozon – Swimming Pool

Charlotte Rampling plays a bored author who takes up her publisher’s offer to use his house to write in the south of France. When his daughter turns up, everything begins to erupt. This classic, by one of the current French masters, is all about things not being what they seem underneath an idyllic picture-postcard surface.

Swimming Pool, 2003
Swimming Pool, 2003 | © Fidélité Productions/France 2 Cinéma

Roger Vadim – And God Created Woman

Roger Vadim arrived in St Tropez in the 1950s to film, And God Created Woman, with his then-wife Brigitte Bardot. She was an immediate hit, even though the film was less of a critical and commercial success – she made the town famous and became its most famous resident. The film tells the story of a girl and two brothers – she marries one, but is really in love with the other. The movie is filmed at key locations around the town.

And God Created Woman, 1956
And God Created Woman, 1956 | © Cocinor/Iéna Productions

Claude Berri – Jean de Florette

Jean de Florette, and its sequel Manon des Sources, is one of the most well-known French movies and used its setting of the Var as its muse. It’s a story about greedy landowners and water rights and features three of the big-hitters in French cinema (Yves Montand, who famously had an affair with Marilyn Monroe), Gérard Depardieu and Daniel Auteuil.

Jean de Florette, 1986
Jean de Florette, 1986 | © DD Productions/Films A2

Jacques Deray – La Piscine

La Piscine is one of the most iconic French movies of all time, featuring real-life couple Romy Schneider and French 60s heart throb Alain Delon. Filmed entirely in St Tropez, it tells the story of a couple, Marianne and Jean-Paul who are staying at a villa for the summer. Their seemingly idyllic existence starts to unravel with the arrival of her ex and his daughter. It was recently remade to great acclaim as A Bigger Splash with Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes.

La Piscine, 1969
La Piscine, 1969 | © SNC

Robert Guediguian – Marius et Jeannette

The harsh city life of Marseille is the backdrop for the modern love story between cement worker Marius and single mother Jeannette. Ariane Ascaride, who played Jeannette, won a César award.

Marius et Jeannette, 1997
Marius et Jeannette, 1997 | © Agat films et Cie

Jean-Paul Rappeneau – The Horseman on the Roof

The backdrop is Marseille in the 1830s when the city was rife with cholera. A young officer, Olivier Martinez is on the run, meets beautiful Juliette Binoche, and offers to help her find her husband. It was filmed in Aix en Provence, as well the surrounding Provençal countryside.

Horseman on the Roof, 1995