1703941471 Beyond Depardieu When the cult of great artists collapses in

Beyond Depardieu: When the cult of great artists collapses in France

“When Gérard Depardieu is attacked in this way, what is being attacked is art.” The sentence is part of a controversial support forum signed this week by 56 artists, including Carla Bruni and Victoria Abril, in which they declared a Denouncing the “lynching” of the actor accused of rape and other sexual assaults by more than a dozen women. The text, which has sparked a new wave of outrage in France, also defends the work of justice as an argument to stop criticism of the actor and highlights an old debate: should we separate the work from the artist? Does art justify everything?

The column, titled “Don’t delete Depardieu,” was published in the conservative newspaper Le Figaro, a few days after French President Emmanuel Macron defended the interpreter’s presumption of innocence. The leader also stated that he would never take part in “manhunts” and ruled out the possibility of stripping the artist of the Legion of Honor, as Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak had suggested, as long as there is no judicial conviction. This distinction, the country's maxim, “does not serve to establish morality,” the president emphasized.

Both Macron's reaction and the support column for Depardieu added fuel to the fire. The 75-year-old actor has been at the center of the media whirlwind following the recent distribution of an unreleased video of him making sexual comments to women during a trip to North Korea in 2018. His statements were particularly resonant given the allegations against him, leading the province of Quebec in Canada to revoke his Medal of Honor and the Belgian municipality of Estaimpuis to revoke his title of honorary citizen. The Paris wax museum also decided to remove the artist's figure.

Depardieu, icon of the seventh art and protagonist of more than 200 films, was reported to the authorities by three women, including a Spanish journalist. The complaints relate to sexual assault and rape. A court formally charged him in 2020 with one of these cases, which was initially archived. Another 13 women have accused him – without filing a formal complaint – of sexual violence during filming between 2004 and 2022. Crimes that the interpreter denies.


The case divides. On the one hand, there are those who defend his legacy and that he can continue to act since he has not yet been convicted. “No matter what happens, no one will ever be able to erase the indelible traces of his work that have left an indelible mark on our time. The rest, everything else, concerns justice, only justice,” said the letter, signed by prominent figures in the French cultural world. “To do without this great actor would be a tragedy, a defeat. The death of art,” they insist.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that this is the final straw and that both Macron and the signatories of the letter despise the victims. “It is a very educational platform. What we see is how an environment organizes itself and uses arguments like 'He's a holy monster, he's a genius' to protect someone,” reacted Anne-Cécile Mailfert, president of the Women's Foundation, to Agence France Presse.

French President Emmanuel Macron took a stand for Depardieu in a television broadcast on December 20th.Emmanuel Macron, President of France, supported Depardieu in a television broadcast on December 20th. LUDOVIC MARIN (AFP)

Murielle Reus, vice-president of MeToo Media, an association that fights against sexism and sexual violence in the media, reminded Franceinfo that “there is a very strong social shift towards sexual and gender-based violence” and that there is “a generation which still does not do so”. understand these social changes.”

The publication of the column was followed by statements from several signatories. Some, like the actor's ex-partner Carole Bouquet, expressed discomfort after the author's identity came to light. He is a very little-known actor who writes for the right-wing extremist magazine Causeur, is a friend of Depardieu's daughter Julie and is close to Éric Zemmour, the former Ultra candidate in the presidential elections. Director Nadine Trintignant decided to withdraw her signature after her identity was revealed, weekly newspaper Le Point revealed on Friday.

Depardieu “is indispensable in the art history of our country,” said Yannis Ezziadi, an actor and editor of the far-right magazine Causeur. The interpreter, known, among other things, for his roles in Cyrano de Bergerac (1990) and the Asterix and Obélix saga (1999-2012), knew about the letter before its publication, but emphasized that he did not name the signatories asked for help. according to local media reports. Several personalities refused to sign the tribune, the actor added, according to the same sources.

Actor and singer Michel Fau, one of the signatories, said in an interview with BFMTV: “They are trying to tell us that the artist must be sensible, a role model for society.” It is completely frightening. I think that the artist must continue to be extravagant, scandalous, obscene and uncontrollable.” Another signatory, Jean-Marie Rouart, an 80-year-old member of the French Academy, added: “The opinion [pública] goes the wrong way. Through the foolish moralizing of these great artists, you see how a fundamental freedom is suppressed and, above all, what makes France happy: the humor we could have and the complacency we had with the lives of the great artists.

The letter and their reactions are reminiscent of other cases and France's complex response to the #MeToo movement. In 2018, a forum signed by 100 French artists and intellectuals, including actress Catherine Deneuve, called for the “freedom to interfere,” essential to sexual freedom, and warned of the impact that the new climate is having on cultural production could have.

“The struggles over the autonomy of art, which date back to the 19th century, partly explain the reactions of intellectual and artistic circles to #MeToo. But the autonomy of art also serves as a pretext for those who want to maintain male dominance,” says French sociologist Gisèle Sapiro, author of “Can the work be separated from the author,” to this newspaper? [traducido al español en ediciones Clave Intelectual]. And he adds: “The very strong sacralization of creation in France and the relationships of awe and dependence that surround creators and artists allow some of them to abuse their position and benefit from the law of silence and toleration of their fellow human beings .” and the tolerance of justice.”

The cases of the film director Roman Polanski, who was convicted 50 years ago of raping a minor, the writer Gabriel Matzneff, who was accused of pedophilia, and the singer Bertrand Cantat, who was convicted of murdering his partner, are very different, but “show different facets of this impunity of the artists.” , emphasizes Sapiro.

Polanski triumphed at the César Gala, although he had been persecuted in the USA since the late 1970s. Matzneff still received a literary prize. And Cantat, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for the murder of Marie Trintignant, did not completely disappear from the public eye for many years. An aura towards the artist that is increasingly being questioned by social progress and the spread of the feminist movement. And it is becoming less and less tolerated.

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