Valencia certainly has a certain je ne sais quois, and can quite easily portray France better than France itself.
Newcastle-born director John Irvin found Valencia’s historic centre irresistible to show the authentic feel of 1920s France for his film, The Garden of Eden, and in order to capture that certain ‘je ne sais quois’ that is not only Paris but also the Cote D’Azur in the 1920s, the film crew moved to Valencia to shoot in 2007.
The film, based on Hemingway’s unfinished novel of the same name, stars Mena Suvari, Jack Huston and Caterina Murino. When Huston and Murino make a brief visit to Madrid during the film, the facade of the hotel where they meet Richard E Grant is in fact Valencia’s Notary Association in Calle Pasqual y Genis 21, a building that used to house Valencia’s Stock Exchange; whereas some of the typical French sidewalk bars of Nice are easily disguised bars and cafés in Valencia’s medieval district, the Barrio del Carmen.
The street where the Notary Association stands had to be closed to traffic for one Saturday while filming took place, using the impressively carved façade and also taking a few shots from a first floor window.
Those locals who like their night life to exude a little ‘joie de vivre’ will easily recognise typical Carmen District landmarks that appear, although somewhat disguised in the film, such as the Plaza del Tossal, El Café de Sant Jaume, el Cafetín, el Estanco, el Marrasquino or la Relojería Grau (the watch shop), all of which are bunched together in a very small area.
The Café San Jaume (supposed to be Nice in the film), with its little, tree-shaded square is of course a very popular spot for Valencians to sit outside and read a newspaper, or dream of Parisian life in the 20s.
Various locations in Alicante province were also used, including Alcoy (in and around Calle José), Altea (in whose port five old fashioned boats and their owners were brought up the coast from Torrevieja), Playa Racó del Conill, Ibi, Novelda (where the Casa Museo Modernista de Novelda provided a sought after 1920s bourgeois house) Raco de Bonaventura, Santa Pola and Villajoyosa. In the latter, a Valencian tiling company, Tejas Borja, was contracted to provide authentic roof tiles for the house where actors Carmen Maura, Jack Huston, Mena Suvary and Caterina Murino played out some of their scenes, although in the case of Mena Suvary, a bath full of rose petals was unfortunately not employed, as was the case in her memorable performance in ‘American Beauty’.
In the city of Alicante itself, filming took place around the Patronato de Cultura (which is converted into a liquor factory), and the Plaza Santa Faz, which purports to be a square in Cannes.
The film studios in Alicante’s Ciudad de la Luz, were also employed.