Oh, Those French

As the world looks to France to see the French Open tennis tournament played out on the clay courts of Roland Garros, the good news seems to be that the country has loosened its strict rules regarding the depiction of smoking in movie posters on public transportation.

The bizarre news is that any such add campaign must have a cultural or artistic goal, picture only people who are dead or fictitious and not subjects linked to the tobacco business.

This news comes to us from frogsmoke.com, a Web site subtitled "The beauty and madness behind the Gallic fumes." Created by a Dutchman, who, married to an English woman, lives in France and carries on a love/hate relationship with the country, the site is determined to expose "what makes France such an endearing and infuriating country at the same time." (It also offers a gallery of dozens pictures of famous French smokers.)

The movie-poster controversy exploded in April, when an ad for a film about the rise of fashion designer Coco Chanel (who famously smoked 50 cigarettes a day until her death at age 87) showed the actress who portrays her holding a cigarette. France's new strict antismoking policy had already resulted in the alteration of a movie poster showing Jacques Tati riding a bicycle. While the comic filmmaker's signature character was invariably clad in a raincoat, carrying an umbrella and smoking a pipe, the public-transportation poster was retouched to put a pinwheel in his mouth in place of his pipe.

Now, because Tati, like Chanel, is dead, the pinwheel can apparently removed and the pipe set back in place. Also, according to the site, other famous French smokers, such as André Malrauxand Jean-Paul Sartre, can be pictured smoking as they are now safely dead. But you won't see Gérard Depardieu or Catherine Deneuve smoking on the side of a bus until they do us the courtesy of escaping this veil of tears. And someone like Zino Davidoff, despite being dead, will never have his photo with cigar on the Paris Metro because he is linked to the tobacco business.

Vive la France!
Alex Benes California June 4, 2009 12:04pm ET
Yes, fine, but does that mean you won't be able to find a cigar shop on St. Germain?
John Hunter Texas June 4, 2009 12:07pm ET
Wasn't it Sartre who said that the act of smoking was the individual being's subconscious attempt to nihilate the world with every puff?

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