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French cultural heritage on view

Critics are getting a view of France's heritage through the lens of Hollywood directors.

india Updated: May 25, 2006 11:47 IST

Cannes critics are getting up close and personal views of some of France's cultural heritage through the lens of Hollywood directors, officials said on Wednesday.

After the inside tour of the Louvre in Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code, it was the turn on Wednesday of the opulent Versailles palace which provided the stunning backdrop for Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.

Versailles' director Christine Albanel said the film would give audiences an intimate glance of the inside of the royal court which began in 1623 with a hunting lodge built by Louis XIII, west of Paris, and added to over the decades notably by Louis XIV.

"Filming went very well. It took 19 days spread over two months, which was one of the longest filmings we have ever seen at Versailles," said Albanel.

"The film takes place in many parts of Versailles, such as the queen's theatre, which is a new window for Versailles, more intimate and a little bit secret.

"We discover a Versailles which is inhabited, in the chapel actors in costume give us a feel of what the court's atmosphere must have been like, especially with a top director."

She added that Versailles officials had also sent representatives to the Los Angeles film fair to attract new projects.

Versailles has a long history of ties with the United States which date back to John D Rockfeller, who in the 1920s helped restore several French monuments including Versailles.

The American Friends of Versailles association helped restore The Three Fountains, by putting up some three million euros (3.8 million dollars), or half the funds.

The next project under consideration is a pavilion in the mock rustic hamlet Marie Antoinette had built, for which they will provide two million euros.

"I think this interest is explained by America's historic roots in Versailles," said Albanel, referring to the Treaty of Versailles under which Britain recognised America's independence on September 3, 1783.

Louis XVI, the husband of Marie Antoinette, was also persuaded to send troops to help in the American war of independence, proving key in defeating the British.

Marie Antoinette the film coincides with the opening to the public from July 1 of certain places on the vast Versailles estate which had only been accessible on a guided tour.

They include the queen's theatre, seen in the film, her magic grotto and the Temple of Love. The French state and Versailles has already invested some 12 million euros in restoring the so-called English gardens as well as the Temple of Love and the Swiss pavilion.

The Louvre museum, the largest in the world, allows film crews in every two years, the press office said, adding that scripts are carefully screened.

"The Louvre can't just be decoration, it has to be an integral part of the plot," added a spokesman.

According to when the crew wants to film and for how long, the bill can be for anything between 7,000 and 24,000 euros a day. The Da Vinci Code paid the highest tariff, filming mostly at night, but no information was forthcoming on how long the shooting lasted.