A Good Year: A Movie Set in the Luberon
Flashback to November 2006: Our family eagerly awaited the release of a new movie filmed in the Luberon. “A Good Year,” directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe, was based on a book of the same name by Peter Mayle, author of “A Year in Provence.” We lived in the Luberon for six months the year before, departing just before the film crews arrived, and we enjoyed Mayle’s book. We were interested to see how the book translated to a movie, and we were especially anxious to see the beauty of our beloved Luberon on the big screen.
We were first in line at our local theater on November 10, the day the movie was released in the USA. We organized a group of friends to join us, people who visited us in Provence or participated in our first Luberon trips earlier that fall. Afterwards we gathered at our house to debrief the film and share our own Luberon experiences.
Much of “A Good Year” was filmed on location in the Luberon, a dramatic contrast to other scenes shot in the bustling city of London. Oscar winner Crowe plays Max Skinner, a successful investment expert, who inherits a dilapidated vineyard in Provence after the death of his uncle. The Château la Canorgue, about a mile from Bonnieux, was used as the site of the chateau and vineyard Max inherits.
Although A Good Year wasn’t a big box office hit, critics agreed that the cinematography was outstanding. Several reviewers suggested that the big star of the movie was really the Luberon! “A Good Year” introduced many movie-watchers to this enchanting area of Provence, especially its suggestion that a beautiful area and its slower lifestyle can work magic in someone’s out-of-control life. (As a former executive in the corporate world, this was a concept I had already embraced enthusiastically.)
The movie has reached a broader audience through the DVD release. We’ve been impressed by the number of people all around the world who have visited our Good Year webpage and are interested to know more about the area where the movie was filmed. Charley and I watch the movie often. Of course we love the scenery and the familiarity of the area that’s so special to us. In the busy-ness of our American lifestyles, “A Good Year” relaxes and romances us. And of course it always makes us yearn to get back to Provence.
On Location in the Luberon
Peter Mayle set his book “A Good Year” in the Luberon, telling a story about a British investment whiz who inherits a vineyard in Provence from an uncle he hadn’t seen in years. Director Ridley Scott and Mayle are friends who both own homes in the Luberon. Apparently Scott and Mayle talked about the book before it was written, and the film project was launched quickly. The movie starred Russell Crowe, Albert Finney and a beautiful French actress named Marion Cotillard. (Two years later she won the Oscar for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose.”)
The cast and crew of “A Good Year” spent nine weeks in the Luberon in the fall of 2005, many of them staying in the village of Bonnieux, where our Luberon Experience trips are based. Several very familiar spots in Provence and the Luberon are featured in the movie, many of which we visit during our Luberon Experience week in Provence.
The filming locations in Provence include:
Château la Canorgue, the château and vineyard Max inherits and the main location for the movie. This acclaimed Côtes du Luberon winery, located about a mile outside the village of Bonnieux, is well-known for its fine organic wine. The crews filmed inside the château and outside in the vineyards and garden. Several scenes in the movie were filmed at the front of the house, including the final romantic scene of Max and Fanny on the terrace. Canorgue is one of our favorite spots in the area. The house and winery have been owned by a local family for several generations and they are dedicated winemakers. Our group has a private tour of the Canorgue vineyards and winery (including a visit to the beautiful terrace at the front of the house), as well as a private wine tasting. We’re the only group invited on the grounds for a private tour.
The Canorgue swimming pool featured in a major espisode in the movie. The character Max fell in and couldn’t get out, despite his best efforts. He was later ”rescued” by Fanny (Marion Cottiard), who he had earlier run off the road. The exisiting swimming pool wasn’t deep enough for him to be trapped and didn’t have the water jets that were important to these scenes. So a second, deeper swimming pool was constructed in the vineyard just for the movie. After the filming it was covered over and replanted with grapevines. Our groups have a chance to admire this beautiful view of the back of the chateau, the garden, and pool.
The view from Canorgue looking west toward Bonnieux and the Petit Luberon. The village is just vaguely identifiable in the distance. This perspective was shown several times in the movie.
The entrance to Canorgue on the road between Bonnieux and the Pont Julien as Max first arrives at his inherited chateau. The stone marker is Canorgue’s actual marker, though the name was altered for the movie.
The village of Gordes, seen on its hilltop near the beginning of the movie when Max’s plane seems to be landing right in the Luberon. The plane must have been put in digitally! We stop at the viewpoint to take photos admire this magnificent view of Gordes on our way to its Tuesday morning market.
The Marseille Airport and rental car area where Max arrives and departs and picks up his little Smart car. This is one of two locations where we meet and return travelers who join us for The Luberon Experience.
Vineyards between Oppede and Menerbes where Max is lost in his Smart car looking for the chateau. This spot is identifiable by road signs. We usually pass this way during our week.
A vineyard just beneath Lacoste, another spot where Max is lost trying to find the chateau. The ruined castle of the Marquis de Sade (now owned by designer Pierre Cardin) is visible at the top of the village. We visit Lacoste during our Luberon Experience week. Many of our travelers join Kathy on a walk to Lacoste and pause to take a photo here in the vineyards below the village.
Hôtel le Renaissance in Gordes, which became Fanny Chanel’s bistro for the movie, a location seen several times. This hotel and restaurant is tucked away in the corner of a small square near the entrance to the tourist office. If you look closely, you’ll see Nathalie Margan and her father Jean-Pierre from Chateau La Canorgue at a table during the scene where Max waits on tables. They had the opportunity to be extras in this scene. On Tuesday mornings the Gordes market is set up in this square, a favorite morning for our groups. But we never have coffee at this place– it’s too expensive!
The fountain in the square by the Hôtel le Renaissance, where Max waits with a glass of wine until Fanny gets off work. During the Tuesday morning market in Gordes, this square is filled with sellers and shoppers… it’s difficult to even see the fountain.
The farmhouse at Château les Eydins, the brightly-lit home of the estate manager Duflot and his wife, where Max and Christie go for dinner and Christie drinks too much pastis. Château les Eydins is another organic winery just down the road from La Canorgue. The farmhouse itself is available as a vacation rental. We pass by this winery when we visit the 2000-year old Roman bridge, the Pont Julien.
The pond in the center of Cucuron, where Max and Fanny go for their date, with old movies on a big screen and a band playing. This beautiful spot is on the south side of the Luberon. We often get e-mails about this location, and no– they do not have music and movie events like the one portrayed in A Good Year.
The Cafe de France in Lacoste, where Max finds Christie at the bus stop (near the end of the movie) and gives her a letter. There’s no bus stop there, but the cafe is real. It’s terrace is one of our favorite spots in the Luberon because of the fabulous view looking across the valley to Bonnieux. Our groups enjoy this view during our visit to Lacoste.
We highly recommend the special features on the DVD of “A Good Year.” The feature “Postcards from Provence” is especially interesting. It includes the director’s commentary and some short features about the making of the movie in Provence.
Articles about the Luberon and “A Good Year”
USA Today: Toujours Peter Mayle (We love the photo of Bonnieux… and the sidebar recommendation for The Luberon Experience!)
USA Today: A Good Year for Luberon Vintages
Murph’s Place: A few days on the set of A Good Year (a fan’s trip to Bonnieux and visit to the film set)
Writing Studio: The writing and production of A Good Year
Weimax Wine & Spirits: Photos from Château la Canorgue
The Independent: Provence – French Affair
More of “A Good Year” – photos, movie clips, books, music
Order the book, movie (widescreen and fullscreen versions), “making of” book, and soundtrack from Our Provence Store, our Amazon store. Our store also features other books, music, and movies related to Provence.
Internet Movie Database: IMDB still photo gallery