One of my favorite places in France is Provence. Yes, I know. It’s not like I discovered it, of course. It’s been a very popular destination for . . . well, centuries. But especially in the modern era. Popularized best, perhaps, by painters such as Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh, and more recently by writers such as Peter Mayle. I recently watched a movie of one of his novels, A Good Year, starring Marion Cotillard (Vie En Rose), Abbie Cornish (Somersault) and Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind). It tells the story of a London Master of the Universe who returns to his boyhood home in Provence, falls in love all over again with the land and its people, especially Marion Cotillard, and has to make some serious decisions. A good, not great movie . . . but evocative of place and a state of mind. As in, I truly wanted to move there after seeing it first hand, and again after seeing the movie.
Of course, owning a vineyard, having a wonderful old house and living with Abbie or Marion adds a certain something to the attraction, but Cezanne’s Provence is appealing without that as well.
Why? Aside from the tremendous variety of landscape, the beautiful valleys, mountains, hills and the Mediterranean Sea . . . there is much history there. Roman ruins, Celtic markers, Castles, Avignon of the Popes, Napoleonic battles, Van Gogh’s Arles. His Night Cafe. And more.
The movie reminded me of the wonderful food to be had there, with its rich agriculture and closeness to the sea. And, of course, wine. Great wine. There is a symbiosis in the air between nature, humans, even buildings. The buildings fit.
Cezanne caught their essence again and again, showing how they coexisted with the trees and the hills and the vibrant colors, mesmerized by the sun. There is a rhythm of life there that falls in with the seasons and the harvest and is easy to romanticize, magnetic. Encourages the romantic. Easier because it has the ingredients for endless day dreams about a better life, a more harmonious existence, closer to the soil and the ancient shores of the dawn of Western Civilization.
Will talk a bit more about Cezanne and his paintings in the days to come. His impact on the history of painting. On Modernism. On Abstract Art.