A beautiful story

Marseille and the cinema

Marseille and the cinema have always had a very strong link. Today, the city ranks second in the number of film shoots, just behind Paris. Thanks to its light and unique landscapes, Marseille is the favorite destination for filmmakers in search of sun and blue sky!

Published on 13 January 2022

Why shoot in Marseille?

The city is attracting more and more national and international directors. In 2019, there were 441 film shoots in Marseille and its territory, and in 2020, despite the pandemic, there were 385. Today, Marseille and its surroundings have  an experienced film and technical industry and qualified technicians who can meet all specific demands, from the smallest project to others of larger scale.
Infrastructures such as the Media center Média de la Belle de Mai or Provence Studios (in Martigues), offer film sets and editing studios worthy of great American productions, Hollywood just needs to watch out!

Cinema in Provence

Marseille honored by Marcel Pagnol

Marcel Pagnol, writer but also filmmaker, born in Aubagne, became famous thanks to his play “Marius”. In 1934, he decided to create his own production company and film studios. During this period, he worked with local actors, notably Fernandel and Raimu. At the end of 1940s, he devoted himself more to writing with  “Souvenirs d’enfance” ( Childhood memories),  and which includes “La Gloire de mon père” ( The Glory of my father) and ” Le Château de ma mère”( My Mother’s Castle) later adapted for the cinema, as well as “Jean de Florette” and  ” Manon des sources”. These are real Provençal postcards that pay tribute to our beautiful hills, the scrubland and the cicadas! The viewer  is completely immersed in this enchanting setting. We cannot talk about Marcel Pagnol without mentioning his trilogy:  Marius, Fanny and  César.  These plays have been successfully adapted to the cinema. Pagnol supervised them and even performed the last part. Contrary to popular belief, the trilogy was shot in studios (in the 8th district), however it is supposed to take place at the famous “Bar de la Marine” on the Old Port. The scene of the famous card game and the picturesque characters with their pronounced Marseille accent contribute greatly to the success of this trilogy.

The Estaque district and Robert Guédiguian

Robert Guédiguian grew up in the working class district of  l’Estaque. He was very interested in politics, but disappointed by it, he decided to engage differently for the causes of the working class, and found a new way of expressing himself through film making. In 1995, his film “A la vie, A la mort !” ( To life, To death) is a hymn to solidarity. However, his greatest success will be “Marius and Jeannette”, a beautiful love story that takes place in the pretty working class neighborhood of Estaque! This film is portrayed by  Gérard Meylan and Ariane Ascaride, who won a César for the best female role. pour le meilleur rôle féminin. This film received 6 nominations and a César !

Marseille and the Mafia

“Borsalino”

This film directed by Jacques Deray in 1970 brings together two sacred monsters: Delon and Belmondo, surrounded by a pleiad of stars… He evokes the beginnings of  two young big men of the Marseille gangland in the 1930s. It was a great success, and Jacques Deray shot a sequel 4 years later,  “Borsalino and Co”.

“French connection”

Marseille was a hub of drug trafficking in the 1970s. The film “French Connection” directed by  William Friedkin and played by Gene Hackman was released in  1971. This cult film can only be cited when evoke Marseille in cinema. He won no less than 5 Oscars. Strong of his success, Cédric Jimenez decided to remake with Jean Dujardin and  Gilles Lellouche to embody the story of Judge Michel who wanted to stop drug trafficking in the city of Marseille. The film “La French” was released in 2014.

“A prophet”

In 2009, Tahar Rahim played the role of a prisoner who was forced to kill, threatened by the Corsica mafia. This film was a great success. Directed by  Jacques Audiard, he won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009. He also won 9 Cesar Awards including Best Film and Best Director.

“The saga of Taxis”

This is surely one of the most expensive sagas in Marseille! This saga was written and produced by Luc Besson. On screen, the main roles would be played by  Samy Naceri, Frédéric Diefenthal and Marion Cotillard. The first part was released in 1998 and was a huge success. The last part was released in  2018 and was directed by actor  Franck Gastambide. The show can be defined as a police comedy that juggles humor with car stunts.

Bac Nord

This film by Cédric Jimenez was released in 2021. It is based on  real events of the 2012 “Bac Nord scandal”, in which the BAC police officers were charged with trafficking and corruption. The film has now been seen by almost 2 million people.

Marseille chosen by Bertrand Blier

With “Trop belle pour toi” (Too beautiful for you) released in 1989 ( Jury’s Grand Prize of Cannes Film Festival and  5 Césars) which brings together  Gérard Depardieu, Josiane Balasko and Carole Bouquet, and  “Un deux trois soleil” (one two three sun) in 1993 played by  Anouk Grinberg, Marcello Mastroianni and Jean-Pierre Marielle, Blier brings together adults and teenagers from opposite backgrounds, lost in a city with a hard  and ruthless suburb. We are far from the relaxed lifestyle and the softness of the  Provence climate evoked in Pagnol’s films!

Other great Marseille filmmakers

Henri Verneuil

Emigrated from Armenia at the age of 4, Henri Verneuil lived his youth in Marseille. After graduating from  Aix en Provence with a degree in Arts and Crafts, he became a journalist, met Fernandel with whom he shot his first short film, and  then “went up” to Paris to become an assistant director. He became one of the great French directors and filmed stars such as Gabin, Fernandel, Michel Simon, and Lino Ventura. He had international fame and even signed a contract with MGM. Henri Verneuil has had his eponymous square for a few years now, in the “Euromediterranée” district, located between the “Joliette” theatre, the “Docks” and the large maritime port. A setting  that would surely have inspired him!

René Allio

René Allio, born in Marseille, was first a painter and decorator at the theater and collaborated with the greatest directors in France and abroad. It was his full-length feature film “La vieille dame indigne” ( The Unworthy old Lady) in 1965 with Sylvie, Victor Lanoux and Jean Bouise, that made him famous. In his fimography two films are literally are two hymns to his hometown,  from which he never departed long : “Retour à Marseille” ( Return to Marseille)(1980) and  “Transit” (1990).

Paul Carpita

Another contemporary of Henri Verneuil and René Allio, Paul Carpita was the son of a docker and a fishmonger. He was a resistance fighter during the Second World War (1939-1945)  and then he joined the French Communist Party and  became a teacher. He was  involved in social struggles and trade unionism, on which he filmed reports in Marseille.
His major work, the 1995  film “Le Rendez-vous des quais” released in 1955, was hit by censorship until 1989: there was talk of the dockers’s  strike against the backdrop of the Indochine war.

Marseille and international  cinema

“Arrête moi si tu peux”

Or “Catch me if you can” in its original title, was directed by  Steven Spielberg. This true story is played by  Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. Indeed, at the begiining of the film, we can see a scene shot in  Marseille at “Beaumettes” prison. In this scene, we see  FBI, Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) trying to get his hands on  Franck (Leonardo DiCaprio). The scene is short though, but it must be admitted that this passage needs to be emphasized… Indeed, it’s not every day that we welcome a film interpreted by Leonardo DiCaprio  and directed by Steven Spielberg !

“Love actually”

This British romantic comedy, released in 2003 was a great success  thanks to its dream cast:  Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Colin Firth…
Although most of the film’s scenes take place in London, a few scenes were shot in Marseille, including  Colin Firth’s arrival at Marseille Provence airport, but also when he meets up with his girlfriend, we see him walking down the pathway “la montée des Accoules” in the Panier district before joining  the “Bar de la Marine” located on the Vieux-Port for their reunion. Even if in the film it is implied that these scenes take place in Portugal, they are beautiful and well shot in our beloved city, Marseille!

Stillwater

The film, directed by  Tom McCa rthy and set largely in  Marseille, was released in 2021. 2021. Matt Damon  and Camille Cottin are the main actors. The plot revolves around a murder  for which the daughter of  an American from  Oklahoma (Matt Damon) is accused. She is incarcerated in the Baumettes prison in  Marseille. This film is rather dark because of its story, but the director highlights the most emblematic places of the city in a remarkable way.

“I fell in love with Marseille, its energy, its diversity, its welcoming population”

Matt Damon (American actor)

It is easy to envisage that Marseille city will be  increasingly honored in the film industry in the coming years not only because of the undeniable assets it possesses, but also because of the will and commitment of the city’s film office (created in 1996), which is doing its utmost to welcome new national and international film projects throughout Marseille in the best possible conditions.

Did you know?

 So many other films shot in  Marseille  !

Pépé le Moko (1937) by Julien Duvivier, Les Démons de l’aube (1946) by Yves Allégret, Le Garçon sauvage (1951) by Jean Delannoy, A bout de souffle (1960) by Jean-Luc Godard, Adieu l’ami (1968) by Jean Herman, L’Armée des Ombres (1969) by Jean-Pierre Melville, La Scoumoune (1972) by José Giovanni, Marche à l’ombre (1984) by Michel Blanc, 37°2 le matin (1986) by Jean-Jacques Beineix., Bye-bye by Karim Dridi (1995), Le transporteur 1 et 3 (2002 et 2008) by Louis Leterrier, Corey Yuen, Olivier Megaton, L’Outremangeur (2003) by Thierry, Binisti with Eric Cantona, L’Immortel (2010) by Richard Berry, Overdrive (2017) by Antonio Negret

and television series!
Plus Belle la Vie, Dock13, Mafiosa, Marseille, Léo Mattéï, No Limit, Le Stagiaire ….

Nos suggestions
Place Bargemon à Marseille, vue sur le Vieux-Port et Notre Dame de la Garde
Finding accommodations in Marseille
Friche Belle de Mai Marseille, salle de restaurant
Restaurants in Marseille