Times sure have changed. Back when Coco Chanel ruled the Paris fashion world, she smoked about 50 cigarettes a day, lighting up everywhere from her apartment at the Ritz to her flagship store on Rue Cambon. Now posters advertising the new movie about her life starring Audrey Tautou, Coco Avant Chanel, are being banned from the sides of Paris buses due to the clope dangling from the actress’s right hand.
There is indeed a law in France against advertising tobacco either “directly or indirectly,” la loi Evin, passed by former Minister of Health Claude Evin in 1991. In 2005, to the chagrin of many, the Bibliothèque Nationale airbrushed the cigarette right out of Jean-Paul Sartre’s mouth on a promotional poster. The decision was lambasted by the left-wing paper Libération, and made international headlines. This time the controversial move has been made by Metrobus, the company which supplies advertising to the sides of Parisian buses. In order to avoid legal woes, Metrobus has refused to post the original image of Tautou-as-Chanel, cigarette in hand (see image at right), and instead is running two far less Coco-like images, one in which Tautou is beaming, her arms around actor Alessandro Nivella, who plays Chanel’s great love Boy Capel, the other with Benoît Poelvoorde, who plays her first protector and mentor Etienne Balsan. Metrobus has also airbrushed the pipe from Jacques Tati’s mouth in posters advertising an exhibit of the great comedian’s work at the Cinémathèque Française and replaced it with a small yellow pinwheel, altering one of the more connu images in French cinema. Libération is critical this time around as well, and even Evin himself has criticized this particular application of the law, saying he did not intend to interfere with France’s cultural heritage.