Marseille Today, Between Nostalgia and Cliches

Marseille Movies: My Mother’s Castle

Whether you stay or leave Marseille (which is my case), the city’s heritage remains indelible, like the memories of a happy childhood spent in the south of France. It is therefore not surprising that many filmmakers and writers have created works recounting their childhood in Marseille and Provence. The filmmaker Yves Robert adapted Marcel Pagnol’s childhood trilogy (La Gloire de mon Père, Le Château de ma Mère et Le Temps des Secrets) in My Father’s Glory and My Mother’s Castle (1990). The same year, the director Henri Verneuil adapts his own youth with Mayrig, Richard Berry playing his role and Claudia Cardinale portaying his mother. The social filmmaker Rene Allio also took spectators on a trip down his youth in L’heure exquise (1980).

FROM CLICHES TO GROTESQUE

back to Provence Movies featureIf Robert Guédigian can be credited for popularizing the image of Marseille onscreen in the 90s, we can certainly say the same about the movie Taxi and its sequels. Produced by Luc Besson and directed by Gérard Pirès and Gérard Krawczyk, they turned the city in a set for action movies. Transforming the streets into racetracks for moronic taxi drivers, policemen and clumsy gangsters, the series took us on drives through the Boulevard Michelet, the Corniche, the port and the nearby freeways. If the films follow Mr. Besson’s simple signature formula, mixing dumbed-down humor with action and a nonexistent intrigue, they popularized stereotypes about the city making it look like it is mostly inhabited by grotesque characters: locals are depicted as beings rather silly, dishonest and unwilling to respect the laws. This unflattering image was vehicled by other movies including the decent Transporteur (2002 where Jason Statham kicks some baddies in a bus) and its TV series adapation (2014), the low-brow cop comedy Gomez & Tavares (2003) or even L’ Outremangeur (2003) starring soccer player-turned actor Eric Cantona as an ogre.

References

  • La Canebière dans le temps et l’espaceAdrien Blès,
    Editions Jeanne Laffite, 1994.
  • Marseille au temps du transbordeurJean Tourette,
    Edition La Savoisienne, 1969.
  • On sort! – Lieux de spectacles, Marseille de l’Alcazar au Zoo,
    P. Echinard & E. Temime, Musée d’Histoire de Marseille, Juin 2000.
  • Le petit marseillaisEditions des 24 et 25 novembre 1923.
  • Regards ContemporainsRevue Marseille n°173 , 1995.
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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.
Fred Thom

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