I was wandering the streets of Montmartre last week and something caught my eye. Traffic cones. Orange traffic cones. Everywhere.
Now, I’ve lived in Paris long enough to know that when those cones show up it means one thing and one thing only: There’s going to be some movie magic imminently.
You see, when they put those cones down it’s a sign to the locals to move their parked cars and scooters, because a film crew will be moving in. It happens quite a lot, especially in Montmartre.
But the film crews don’t typically hang around. They’re just here for a day or two. A quick scene. But not this time, apparently.
In fact, a pretty big film crew has spent the better part of a week changing the face of one particular street, rue Androuet.
I’ve visited the set every day and I’ve been absolutely fascinated by the process. It must be a fairly big budget film because they have loads of people working on it.
Carpenters are adding fake facades to the buildings. They’re burning away the painted road markings. Painters are adding details to the walls and several of the local shops have been transformed inside too!
In fact, they’ve added a whole road full of fictional shops. There’s a corset maker, a locksmiths, a barber, and a pharmacy. The local hat maker has a range of period bonnets in the window. And there’s a mammoth jewellery store on the corner. More on this in a second.
As for me, I’d been trying to work out exactly when this movie was supposed to be set, until I noticed yesterday that they’d added an old-timey message board with a swastika. Closer inspection revealed the year 1941 in small print. A war film!
Local coffee shop staff told me that the director had paid them a visit or two over the past week and that they knew the full story.
They told me that the set was for a film version of a popular French theatre piece called Adieu Monsieur Haffman. The movie, scheduled to be released in 2021, already has an IMBD page here.
The synopsis, according to Allociné, is: Paris 1942. François Mercier is an ordinary man who aspires to start a family with the woman he loves, Blanche. He is also the employee of a talented jeweler, Mr. Haffmann.
But faced with the German occupation, the two men will have no other choice but to conclude an agreement whose consequences, over the months, will upset the fate of our three characters.
That explains the jewelers… a key part of the plot, it seems. The director is Fred Cavayé and the movie stars Daniel Auteuil, Gilles Lellouche, and Nikolai Kinski.
I can’t quite understand why I find it so fascinating to observe, but I think it’s about getting a glimpse into the Paris of yesteryear. It doesn’t take much imagination at all to feel like your walking in 1940 – especially if you visit at night and you’ve got the street to yourself.
Printed signs around the area suggest they’ll be filming for the next week. If you’re in Montmartre, I highly recommend you check it out.
Meanwhile, if you’re a movie buff, you might recognize the fruit and veg shop on the corner of the street is the one from Amélie, another French hit film from Montmartre.
Oh, and one last tip. If you do check out this movie set, don’t forget to explore the nearby rue des Abbesses, which I consider to be the best street in Paris. Take a look and decide for yourself!