«Villefranche is my island»
«Villefranche is my island», he said, meaning an island where he was the beacon of attraction for the artists and intellectuals of the Golden Twenties. Sir Francis Rose stated,«The little port of Villefranche was the cultural center of Europe.» Later, mid- 20th century celebrities would rush to wine and dine with Cocteau at the restaurant run by his dear friend, Germaine.
« My beloved Hotel Welcome, where 1 spent the best moments of my life. »
From 1924 to 1935, Jean Cocteau stayed at the Hotel Welcome on the quays of Villefranche. The Hotel Welcome became a refuge for the young Cocteau after the death of his friend Radiguet. 1n the 50’s, at the height of his fame, while residing at Francine Weisweiller’s Villa Santo Sospir, he wrote the memories of his life at the Welcome during the 20’s.
« To Germaine, my eternal friend »
Germaine arrived in Villefranche-sur-Mer in 1925. lt is while she was working at the Hotel Welcome that she met Cocteau. She and her husband, Louis Brau, opened their restaurant, « La Mère Germaine » on the quai Courbet in 1938. When Cocteau began working on the restoration of the St.Pierre Chapel, Germaine graciously provided meals for all the craftsmen and donated a large sum of money so that work could be finished. When she passed away in 1959, Jean Cocteau wrote, « Villefranche has died. »
« This Chapel represents my youth, my old age, my lifeblood, my soul, and my skin. »
The old chapel belonged to the Fishermen’s Guild and originally housed the Fishing Tribunal. In the 5O’s, it became, a warehouse for fish nets. Lt is Albert Lorent, who convinced his friend, Jean Cocteau, that the chapel needed to be restored. After a year of work, and despite financial worries that were overcome through generous donations, the chapel was inaugurated on June 3O, 19S7.
The Testament of Orpheus » is an autoportrait of a nouveau genre »
ln 1959 Jean Cocteau shot the film « The Testament of Orpheus » at the Victorine Studios in Nice, at the villa Santo Sospir in St. Jean Cap Ferrat, and in Villefranche. He said, « The central theme (the crux of the film} has to do with an encounter with the part of me that l wouldn’t even consider shaking hands with. » This encounter took place in Villefranche-sur-Mer. Cocteau intended to shoot the scene at the spot where he and his double cross on the wall-walk of the citadel, but a heavy downpour forced him to shoot it in the Rue Obscure. Cocteau believed that this unexpected weather event was a godsend, since it availed him the opportunity to capture the eeriness of the medieval street.