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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You might also like these related posts
Copyright © Life on La Lune 2022. All rights reserved.