Tales of Glamour and Excess: Top Films Set in Monaco

Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann with Harcourt Williams as Ambassador in the movie Roman Holiday.
Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann with Harcourt Williams as Ambassador in the movie "Roman Holiday". | © Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy Stock Photo
Caroline Circlaeys

Bright and beautiful in the daytime and dazzling at dusk, Monaco is a cradle of romance and style. With glamorous palaces, Monte Carlo casinos, yachts and a pristine blue sea, the world’s second smallest country evokes a luxurious and glamorous world which has brought a host of filmmakers to this tiny enclave.
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The Story of a Cheat (1936)

In Sacha Guitry’s classic film, a young boy survives a fatal food poisoning that decimates his whole family. His survival was due not to his strong immune system, but due to his dishonesty. After committing a theft, he was denied the poisoned dinner. Now an orphan, he swears to become rich. Taking his chance, he flees to Monaco’s casinos to take advantage of his odd providence. In a twisted kind of irony, the boy wins whenever he cheats, but loses everything once he plays fair. This film proves that Sacha Guitry is a king of self-deprecation, black humour and paradoxical wit. This innovative film went on to inspire other renowned directors such as Orson Welles and François Truffaut.

The Red Shoes (1948)

This influential musical tragedy is a fairy tale of betrayal, love and art which depicts a young dancer’s descent into obsession. A use of anti-naturalism enables directors Powell and Pressburger to explore the inner life of their hero. Her fall into pieces is depicted through a 17-minute ballet functioning as a mise en abyme of the story. She dances to Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of a young lady who finds red shoes and starts dancing freely. Exhausted, she intends to stop but the shoes refuse and trap her in an endless dance. This represents the archetype of a ‘Powellian’ character, always torn by an impossible dilemma; with no escape except to transform reality into a poetic image.

To Catch a Thief (1955)

Monaco is the stage for a series of jewel robberies whose number one suspect seems to be John Robie (Cary Grant), a retired brigand who claims to have turned a page. Robie is Intrigued by this mysterious imposter who is attempting to frame him, and so puts his retirement on hold to unmask the thief. His investigation leads him to the charming Frances (Grace Kelly), a society woman whose puritanical appearance is misleading. A sunny and colourful thriller where the theft is a metaphor for the trap of seduction; Cary Grant and Grace Kelly play hide and seek and entice us throughout this risky love game by legendary director Alfred Hitchcock.

Monte Carlo Baby (1951)

Director Jean Boyer helped to create this slapstick comedy which gave world famous actress Audrey Hepburn one of her earliest roles. Monte Carlo Baby depicts the search for a missing baby who is mistakenly delivered to Ray Ventura’s band on their way to Monte Carlo for a music tour. Mistaken identity and theatrical misunderstanding escalates. Audrey Hepburn plays Melissa Farrell, the mother who goes after them and is given a crash course in the decadence and sin of the Monte Carlo lifestyle.

Bay of Angels (1963)

Jean Fournier (Claude Mann) listens to his father and lives an exemplary life, working as a clerk in a bank. His life is relatively untroubled until a fellow colleague, Caron, introduces him to gambling. Following this introduction, Fournier’s downfall begins and casinos eventually become his second home. There, he falls in love with Jackie (Jeanne Moreau). The two charismatic characters blindly dive into the infernal spiral of the gambling world. This classic French film focuses on the underbelly of the gambling world and the perils of addiction and destitution which await many gamblers.

Monte Carlo or Bust! (1969)

A sequel to Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines in which a villain, Sir Cuthbert Ware-Armitage (Terry Thomas), finds out that his father lost half of his factory to an American (Tony Curtis). They both take part in the Monte Carlo rally, the annual auto race and bet that the winner takes it all. Among the racers, eccentric characters such as escaped convicts, British officers, Italian Casanovas guarantee madcap adventures. This slapstick comedy teleports us to the 1920s, gathering an international cast of great comedians such as Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Eric Sykes and even the French actor Bourvil. This joint British/French/Italian production leads to inevitable nationalistic stereotypes. Hilarious and romantic, the viewer will enjoy the ride as well as the beautiful landscapes of Monte Carlo.

Never Say Never Again (1983)

Sean Connery has one last hurrah as James Bond and slips for the last time into the secret agent’s suit. Considered too old by his superiors, he is sent to a health institute to get back into shape. On the brink of retirement, he proves to the world the contrary by stopping the Spectre, a terrorist group threatening to detonate two warheads. Older than today’s Bond films, but twice as charming and funny as ever; this film has all the ingredients of a typical James bond movie: action, suspense, humour, beautiful women and charismatic enemies. Needless to say more, the unforgettable tango scene between Kim Basinger and Sean Connery sets the glamorous tone.

GoldenEye (1995)

James Bond

The third time that Monaco hosted a James Bond film; GoldenEye came out in 1995 when, after six years of absence, the British spy returned in the guise of Pierce Brosnan. It is difficult to find a better destination for a perfect comeback than the casino of Monte Carlo or the breath taking views around the Monte Carlo Harbour. The Cold War is over but this is the ideal meeting point with the new Russian mafia. With the head of MI-6 now being a woman, strong feminine characters enter the game and can easily pit themselves against Bond, as this film reveals.

Une Chance Sur Deux (1998)

Patrice Leconte’s film depicts a confused family situation in which Alice (Vanessa Paradis), who has just got out of prison for car theft, discovers that her mother has passed away and left her a strange inheritance: two fathers! Lifting the veil on the mystery of her birth, her mother left a tape revealing that she loved two men but never knew which one was the father. They are now aging retired thieves nestled in Monaco’s seedy underbelly, and are played by legendary French actors Jean Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon. Belmondo, Delon and Paradis offer us a tender and action-packed comedy.

Heartbreaker (2010)

Pascal Chaumeil’s 2010 film focuses on a team of professional heartbreakers who can intervene if a loved one is about to make the wrong choice in love. Their secret method is seduction. Their rule is that they make couples break up only if the woman is unhappy. However, Alex, the leader of this team (Romain Duris), struggles with his current mission: a perfect rich couple that seemed to be madly in love with each other. The more he tries to seduce her, the more his heart breaks. A French romantic comedy that is both hilarious and irresistible; Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis will give you goose bumps.

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