LIFE GOES TO THE MOVIES
It's the time-honored dilemma: to admire or to revile. What do you do with an admirable artist who also happens to be a reviled pig? The dilemma is pungently oppressive where actors are concerned: because in that case the persona of the artist is almost impossible to disentangle from the actual body that embodies it. And theatre and the movies are the hardest art forms where art is intimately, physically entangled, enmeshed with life.
So, to ape Simone de Beauvoir, faut-il brûler Gerard Depardieu? Should we burn Depardieu together with his movies? My suggestion is: burn all movies! They are the vilest and most dispensable art form: they are not even art: they are pure adulation, foul idolatry.
France’s culture wars have deepened, with more than 8,000 personalities signing a letter that accuses Gérard Depardieu’s supporters, including President Macron, of “spitting” on the victims of sexual violence.
The rift over the actor accused of rape and sexual assault has spread beyond the French borders. In Switzerland, Radio Télévision Suisse, the public broadcaster, said it would no longer show films in which he had the lead role, while in Belgium, the home of Benoît Poelvoorde, 59, one of the country’s most prominent film stars, was vandalised after he showed support for Depardieu.
“Depardieu, we don’t like him, he’s a big pig,” said graffiti daubed onto Poelvoorde’s house in Namur, south of Brussels.
Poelvoorde was among 56 actors, singers and writers to sign a letter in support of Depardieu, who is facing controversy for his backing of President Putin and over a recent documentary that showed him making crude comments about and to women.
Most of the stars backing Depardieu are aged over 50, such as the British actress Charlotte Rampling, 77, and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, 56, the singer and wife of Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president.
Their letter, published last week and entitled “Don’t Cancel Gérard Depardieu”, said he was “probably the greatest of actors” but was facing a “lynching” and a “torrent of hate”. Macron has said he is a “great admirer” of the 75-year-old actor, whom, he claimed, “makes France proud.”
In response, more than 8,000 artists, writers and personalities have signed an anti-Depardieu letter. Most belong to a younger generation of Francophone stars such as Angèle Van Laeken, the 28-year-old Belgian singer known as Angèle, Anne Peichert, 27, the French singer known as Louane, and Léna Mahfouf, 26, an influencer and author.
They say the pro-Depardieu letter and Macron’s defence of the actor “spit in the faces of the victims of Gérard Depardieu but also of all the victims of sexist and sexual violence. This is the sinister and perfect illustration of an old world that refuses … change.”
Depardieu is facing two lawsuits from French actresses and one from a Spanish journalist alleging rape or sexual assault. A total of 11 other actresses have claimed in media interviews that he assaulted them. He denies the allegations and says he has never acted violently towards women. His lawyers say his right to the presumption of innocence is being disregarded by his critics.
However, Depardieu’s supporters are on the back foot after it was revealed that the letter they signed was written by Yannis Ezziadi, an actor and commentator who is close to Éric Zemmour, the populist, right-wing anti-Islam pundit and politician.
The revelation caused a stir among Depardieu supporters, who feared being accused of right-wing populism themselves.
Several prominent signatories such as the actors Pierre Richard, 89, and Charles Berling, 65, and Josée Dayan, 80, the director, have distanced themselves from the letter.
Another signatory, Carole Bouquet, 66, the actress who starred as a Bond girl in For Your Eyes Only, and who was Depardieu’s partner for a decade, also said she felt “ill at ease”.
The rift over Depardieu is causing trouble throughout the French film and television sector. Lucie Lucas, 37, a French actress who is in the anti-Depardieu camp, publicly expressed outrage when Victoria Abril, 64, the Spanish actress with whom she stars in Clem, a French television series, signed the pro-Depardieu letter.
Lucas accused Abril of belonging to a generation of “degenerate boomers” and claimed the Spaniard had herself committed sexual assaults. Although Lucas has since withdrawn the accusations, a lawyer for Abril, who denies them, said she planned to sue her co-star.