Niles-Maine District Library

Summer in Provence — without leaving your home!

Summer in Provence sounds good to me. Since this year I cannot afford to go, I’m rewatching two of my favorite Provence films. If you are in the same boat as me (no money), try watching the South of France go by on your TV, rather than running up your credit card. Two films come to mind in particular that breathe new life into the Provence region of France…an area consumed with lavender, wine and the art of kicking back! Can anything be better than that?!?!?!

Both films are based on books by British native and Provence transplant Peter Mayle, a former ad man in London who, along with his wife, decides to retire early in a farmhouse in Provence’s Luberon region. Mayle began writing both fiction and nonfiction once in France and all of his books reflect the art of fun, sun and relaxation that Provence seems to have perfected.

Mayle’s most famous book, A Year in Provence, tells the story of his first months in Provence and what hurdles he and his wife had to overcome to adjust to French living.  It was later made into a mini-series starring Inspector Morse’s John Thaw and is a true experience of the culture, people and general “soul” of the place.  You get a true sense of the area, the people and the lifestyle that the French call La Dolce Vita…which means The Good Life.  A Year in Provence is filled with the “air” of Provence…the images, the language, the smells, the culture, etc.  This is a FUN time…there is something for everybody: scenery, humor, culture, beauty. How can you miss?!?!?!

A Good Year is based on a novel by Mayle about a London financial wizard who returns to Provence to sell the estate left to him by his late uncle. This film transported me to Provence…body, mind and spirit. It is a charming, fun-loving film that made me not only want to go to Provence, but wanted to buy a chateau and vineyard there for a permanent move. And of course, fall in love there. Will any of this happen? Probably not, but watching A Good Year will bring all of us about as close to those things as we’re ever going to get. This movie really brought the region and its people and its sense of romance alive. And when I say romance, I do not only mean love. I mean a romantic feel in the charm and the general air of the locale. Basically, the romance of life. In this story, the Russell Crowe character has a life with NO romance in London. He’s money-driven and career-obsessed. He even has lost touch with his expatriate uncle who had a winery in Provence where Crowe’s character used to vacation as a child. Why did he lose contact with the uncle? Well, because money and his job and his quest to be the best got in his way. After his uncle passes, he finds out the chateau has been left to him. Most people (myself, most definitely) would jump at the chance to live in France rent-free but, of course, this just gets in the Crowe’s character’s way in his pursuit of power. Once he gets there, though, it is another matter. And that’s pretty much the power Provence has over someone even as career-minded as Crowe. And it’s also pretty much the same power this film had over me.

So instead of heading to the airport, head to Niles to check out these titles that are set in a region in France that hopefully we will all visit one day. Until then…these movies will have to do!

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