Cinema on the French Riviera
Film is one of the most powerful communicative mediums that helped raise awareness about a country or a city. The French Riviera has inspired various forms of artistic expression, resulting in aesthetic currents that contributed to vitalising Art as an experience. Directors travelled from all around the world to film in the region. Their films may have varied in tone, they were innovative, committed, disturbing, contemplative and sometimes exuberant, yet they all had one common point: They dealt with stories often related to the territory’s social and cultural aspect, once again supporting its uniqueness.
Experiencing Cinema in a given territory.
Nice has always been a source of inspiration for Cinéma. In 1919, thanks to the Victorine Studios, Nice became the second French city with the highest number of on-territory film productions, only surpassed by Paris. The region’s production-friendly infrastructures allowed Nice to host both international film productions and arthouse cinema. Local filmmakers like Jean Renoir, Jean Cocteau, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Demy, Agnès Varda, Claire Simon, Catherine Breillat, and foreigners such as Luis Buñuel, Alfred Hitchcock, Manoel de Oliveira, and recently Woody Allen, have created innovative and critical works, displaying aesthetics peculiarly linked to the area.
The catalyst of artistic history
Art patrons Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles have left a deep mark on the Côte d’Azur. Their mystical Villa, which subsequently holds the name Noailles was the heart of the 1920s avant-garde era. Perched on the heights of Hyères, the mansion housed several creative heroes. Man Ray used it to film Les Mystères du Château de Dé in the spring of 1929. In the same year, Luis Buñuel began writing his script for L’âge d’Or that he shot there the following year, simultaneously with Jean Cocteau’s Le Sang d’un poète. The French couple financed all three films. The surrealist movement still runs vampant in the region well after it’s was proclaimed passing. The Villa remains its strongest purveyor by hosting regular contemporary art exhibitions.
Nice has taken part in one of the greatest pre-war cinematographic adventures with the movie A Propos de Nice [About Nice] directed by Jean Vigo, in 1930. The movie’s modernist nature affirms its free spirit approach and its ruptured relationship with the era’s classical cinema.
Many other experiences have followed, since then, conceived with that same avant-garde spirit that had produced hybrid, unpredictable works of passion. For example, Micheline Hachette, an artist of the Lettrist movement, attempted an « infinitesimal » and « super-temporal » film experience which had been invented by Isidore Isou, initiator of the letterist movement, also entitled … A Propos de Nice (1970). The performance was showcased for the first time in Nice, on May 23, 1970, by Ben and Annie Vautier, within the framework of the « first international festival of infinitesmal and super-temporal art ». The Fluxus artist and his wife distributed mimosa strands to passersby who were instructed to use the strands as a base upon which they could mentally construct a movie on the theme of Nice.
Nice has organised cinematic experiences that have united filmmakers, plastic artists, musicians, choreographers, etc. The strong presence of plastic artists in the city endows it with a particular status that is irrevocably linked to the history of contemporary art. This is made apparent by looking at the movies of Jean-Pierre Mirouze, who identifies with the Neo-realists, and who has been a witness, an assistant, a companion, and a filmer of the main artists working in Nice and its surroundings, namely: Yves Klein, Martial Raysse, Laubies, Sosno, Ben, Robert Malaval, and especially Arman.