Marseille in 6 pop culture places

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Discover Marseille through six major pop culture sites. From Breathless to World War Z, through Asterix or Marcel Pagnol.
Reality/Fiction Marseille

Le Miramar – Breathless by Jean-Luc Godard (1960)

Breathless by Jean-Luc Godard (screenshot)
Breathless by Jean-Luc Godard (screenshot)

Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) steals a car on the Old Port of Marseille in order to reach Paris. Jean-Luc Godard’s most famous film begins in front of the Miramar, one of Marseille’s institutions. The young woman asks him to take her, he replies, “Not now.”

The Miramar is a gastronomic restaurant, a founding member of the Bouillabaisse Charter, whose chef, Christian Buffa, is an authentic child of the city. A Bout de souffle , the flagship film of the New Wave, is also the one that Americans most associate with Jean-Paul Belmondo. Quentin Tarantino often cites him among his references.

Address : 12 quai du Port, 13002 Marseille

La Belle de Mai – Plus belle la vie (France 3 – 2004)

Media center of the Belle de mai
Pôle média de la Belle de mai – Credit: Superbenjamin, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The life of the inhabitants of the Mistral district is not easy. Between the intrigues of some, the heartaches of others and the coups de théâtre, it is difficult to get bored in this friendly enclave of the Phocaean city. Fictitious, the Mistral was entirely created in the Belle de Mai studios.

It is here that the majority of the series is shot, even if sometimes it allows itself a few forays into the city, such as the Parc Borély, for example. The Mistral is inspired by the Panier district. The studio sometimes opens to the public, to the delight of fans. Plus belle la vie is the first French series to have reached the thousandth episode.

The Mistral was imagined and designed by Michel Blaise, on a space of 1 100 m2. One found there in particular the bar of Roland Marci (Michel Cordes). This establishment was itself inspired by a famous bar in the Place des Treize-Cantons, located opposite the Plus belle la vie store, where all sorts of derivative objects are sold.

Address : Pôle média de la Belle de Mai, 37 rue Guibal, 13003 Marseille

Faculty of Economics and Management – Belsunce Breakdown of Bouga (2000)

“…Everything goes and comes from here. Are you contesting? Prepare your will guy. Belsunce, flagship of the Phocaean districts. Wedged between the train station and the old port, we are not the most to be pitied. At home and away, we crack down on cockroaches like the Baygon.”

Produced for the release of the film Comme un aimant, this song by Bouga was filmed in the Belsunce district.

The rapper passes through the Halle Puget and the Faculty of Economics and Management. As an integral part of the University of Aix-Marseille, it is housed in a former 17th century hospital. The music of Belsunce Breakdown is the work of Akhenaton, from the group IAM. Freeman is in charge of the famous refrain “D’où je sors, d’une ronde, Belsunce Breakdown“.

Address : 14 rue Puvis de Chavannes, 13001 Marseille

The Gate of Aix – Asterix the Legionnaire by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo (1964)

Porte d'Aix in Marseille by Houss 2020 (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Porte d’Aix in Marseille by Houss 2020 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Asterix and Obelix have enlisted in Julius Caesar’s army to help Falbala’s fiancé, Tragicomix, who has been forcibly deployed to Africa. With their troop of makeshift legionnaires, they arrived in Massilia, the ancient name of Marseille, through the Porte d’Aix.

A beautiful anachronism since the triumphal arch was erected only in 1823. The scenario of this album imagined by René Goscinny is largely inspired by Laurel and Hardy conscripts, in which Hardy joins the Foreign Legion with Laurel to find the fiancé of a young French woman with whom he is madly in love.

Asterix and Caesar’s Surprise was also adapted into a feature-length animated film, featuring the stories ofAsterix the Gladiator and Asterix the Legionary.

Address : Porte d’Aix, 19 Place Jules Guesde, 13003 Marseille

La Buzine – My mother’s castle by Marcel Pagnol (1957)

The castle of La Buzine (CC BY-SA 3.0 / Fr.Latreille - Personnal work)
The castle of La Buzine (CC BY-SA 3.0 / Fr.Latreille – Personnal work)

The famous castle that gave its title to the second part of Childhood Memories is the Château de la Buzine. Nevertheless, Marcel Pagnol makes a deal with reality by placing it on the path of the canal, whereas in reality, the latter passes much further.

“By walking through the Buzine, the castle, we saved almost an hour of walking.” Along the canal, they open the gates of the beautiful houses and sneak into their parks always hiding or running from bush to bush. Augustine Pagnol, Marcel’s mother, was very afraid of this castle.

The author bought the building blind in 1941 in order to build his Cité du cinéma. A project that he will not succeed in realizing. Built in 1867, the building does not have “at least ten floors” and “thirty balconies of carved stone on each facade” as the writer describes it in his novel but remains remarkable in many ways.

In very poor condition at the beginning of the 1990s, the castle was the subject of an ambitious renovation policy in 1991. Today, owned by the city of Marseille, it houses the Maison des cinématographies de la Méditerranée.

Address : 56 Traverse de la Buzine, 13011 Marseille

Catacombs of Saint Victor Abbey – World War Z (Saber Interactive, 2019)

General view of the abbey of Saint-Victor in January 2009. North facade of the 11th and 14th centuries overlooking the Old Port by Robert Valette (CC BY-SA 4.0)
General view of the abbey of Saint-Victor in January 2009. North facade of the 11th and 14th centuries overlooking the Old Port by Robert Valette (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Added as DLC several months after the release of the event game World War Z, the “map” Marseille is unanimous. From the old port to Fort Saint-Nicolas, the undead are everywhere.

One of the favorite missions for players is in these catacombs. Dmitry Grigorenko, lead designer of the game, chose Marseille for this patch because “despite this little zombie apocalypse, it’s a beautiful place. There are many parts of the city that inspired us.” Traces of these hypogeums can be found as early as the 4th century, shortly before the building of the abbey. Legend has it that Saint Victor is buried there.

Address : Catacombs of the Saint-Victor Abbey, Pl. Saint-Victor, 13007 Marseille

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Map of 100 cult places in Marseille [French Edition]

Marseille as you have never seen it before. Except through the legendary heroes and heroines of pop culture! Get off the beaten track and discover the city of Marseille through your favorite movies, series, music, comics, novels and video games!

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By Damien Canteau

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Passionné par l'Histoire, les animés, les Arts et la bande dessinée en particulier, Damien est le rédacteur en chef du site spécialisé dans le 9e art, Comixtrip.

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