Menton - The Cocteau connection

Menton – The Cocteau connection

It’s tempting to think that embarking on any kind of trail will be a long and arduous one. However in just two days searching for film locations on the  Côte d’Azur, I’d visited Nice, Eze, Roquebrune Cap Martin and now Menton while uncovering connections to films as diverse as To Catch a Thief (1955), The Transporter (2002) and The Bucket List (2007).

Menton, dubbed « The Pearl of France », has a feel and look all of its own, with its Italian-influenced buildings recalling its ownership by the Republic of Genoa in the 13th century.

Menton from the harbour

Menton old town from the harbour

Around Menton

Around Menton

As can be seen in the above photo, I was still borrowing a vintage Porsche for the day (for more on that see my Eze post), as the sun started to set behind me.

Since 1934, the city of Menton has provided a location for over 60 films, starting with Marcel Carné’s La Pension Mimosa. Other films made in Menton include Mobius (2013) and The Son’s Room (2001). The most recent, Grace of Monaco, is a tribute to film star Grace Kelly, played by Nicole Kidman, which will be released in 2013.

The film was shot around the Côte d’Azur in 2012, including Parvis St Michel, a small town square in the centre of Menton which doubles as a Monaco marketplace for the film. I entered from the Quai Bonaparte, climbing a number of steps to reach the square.

Looking up to the Parvais de l'Eglise St Michel

Looking up to the Parvis St Michel

Entrance to the Basilique Saint-Michel de Menton

Entrance to the Basilique Saint-Michel de Menton

Views of the Parvais de l'Eglise St Michel as seen in Grace of Monaco

Views of the Parvis St Michel as seen in Grace of Monaco

The 1983 James Bond film, Never Say Never Again, also features the square in its bike chase sequence (see the .45sec mark in this video):

Another Menton film connection is The Prix Orange and Citron (Orange & Lemon Prizes), created in 1949 and are awarded to celebrities depending on their public persona.

The “Orange” prize was awarded to the most amicable and the “Citron” prize to the least co-operative. The first recipients of the award in 1949 were Jean Marais, Josette Day, Henri Decoin, Georges Marchal, Danièle Darrieux, Marcel Carné. The 1974 Prix Orange and Citron were the last ones ever awarded after 25 years existence.

Jean Cocteau and Menton

As well as its strong film connections, the Côte d’Azur is also synonymous with art, many of the world’s most famous artsits having made their way to the region to live and work.

One of the most famous and prolific was Jean Cocteau who, as well as being the director of films such as La Belle et la Bête (1946), Les Parents terrible (1948) and Orphée (1950), was a renowned artist, poet, novelist and playwright.

Cocteau first came to Menton in 1911 and his time in the area is celebrated with both an impressive new museum and a smaller building, the Musée du Bastion, housed within a 17th century building near the town’s harbour. He was also responsible for decorating the Wedding Hall in Menton.

The exterior mosaics were created by Cocteau and make for an impressive view as you leave or enter the harbour area.

Musée du Bastion near the Menton harbour

Musée du Bastion near the Menton harbour

One museum worth taking some time to visit is Menton’s Musée Jean Cocteau, funded by Belgian collector Sévérin Wunderman, designed by Rudy Ricciotti and opened in 2012 – over 100,000 visitors came through its doors in its first year.

Museé Jean Cocteau exterior (© Patrick Varotto, Ville de Menton)

Museé Jean Cocteau exterior (© Patrick Varotto, Ville de Menton)

The museum is a fine tribute to Cocteau, taking the visitor through the many stages of his career with excerpts from his films, scripts, notes and examples of his art. At present there’s an exhibition devoted to Jean Cocteau’s theatre entitled “Rouge et Or / Red & Gold” displaying over 200 unseen works from the Séverin Wunderman collection.

The exhibition offers a behind the scenes look at Jean Cocteau’s theatre and re-discovers actors such as Genica Athanasiou, Berthe Bovy, Édith Piaf, Maria Casarès and Cocteau’s long-term partner, Jean Marais.

Watch a video of the trip on YouTube

Exhibits inside Menton's Musee Cocteau

Exhibits inside Menton’s Musee Cocteau

For the next stop on my tour I’ll continue to follow in Jean Cocteau’s footsteps…

Visiting Menton

The Côte d ‘Azur, within three hours of over 30 European destinations, offers a wide range of themed stays all year round. With France’s second airport, Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport, the French Riviera is within reach of over 33 countries, 103 destinations and served by 56 airlines. The 2013 schedule is available at www.nice.aeroport.fr. Visit the Côte d’Azur Tourist Board website for more information on the region.

Menton is located approximately 31 kilometres from the town of Nice. Visit the local tourist office at www.tourisme-menton.fr.


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Top image: © CRT Riviera Côte d’Azur – Cindy Joigny

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