Gérard Depardieu, the end of impunity for the ‘Monster’ of French cinema

The French actor Gérard Depardieu played a role in 2014 that has turned out to be prescient. American director Abel Ferrara directed that year the film ‘Welcome to New York’ about the French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his fall from grace in 2011, after the alleged rape of a hotel maid in the Big Apple. In that film, Depardieu played the then president of the International Monetary Fund. That case opened ‘DSK’s’ Pandora’s box. He put an end to the complicity that that former socialist minister had benefited from, Known for his lasciviousness and his reputation as an ‘insistent flirt’. Which is often a euphemism to refer to a sexist aggressor.

The world has changed a lot in this last decade. One of the most significant changes was the emergence of the fourth feminist wave, symbolized by the #MeToo movement in 2017. Despite this liberation of the feminine word and complaints of sexual violence, there are personalities who continued to benefit from the privilege of impunity.

In France, one of the most paradigmatic cases of this is that of Dépardieu, 74 years old, the best-known living French actor in the world along with Brigitte Bardot and Alain Delon. Although the young actress Charlotte Arnould, 22 years old at the time of the events, reported him in 2018 for rape – an accusation for which he was charged in December 2020 -, The actor from ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ or ‘The Woman Next Door’ was able to continue acting as if nothing had happened. Until now.

About twenty accusations

As happened in the spring of 2011 with Strauss-Kahn, Dépardieu’s Pandora’s box has now been opened in France. He seems to have ended the impunity from which he benefited during his long career as an actor, in which he recorded more than 200 films. Curiously, the triggering event is rather insignificant next to the long history of sexist aggression by the ‘Monster’ – his artistic pseudonym – in the seventh art in France. On December 7, the France 2 network broadcast an investigative report in which the actor was seen making rude and misogynistic gestures and comments during a trip to North Korea. Even in that Complément d’Enquête program He was seen joking about a girl’s sexuality.

The commotion over these images was added to the news at the beginning of December that the actress Hélène Darras had filed a complaint against her in September. What was she accusing him of? Of having sexually assaulted her during the filming of the film ‘Disco’ in 2007, in which he was the established star and she was a simple young actress with a very secondary role. The Spanish journalist Ruth Baza, 51 years old – and 23 at the time of the events – has accused the interpreter this week of having raped her in 1995, in the context of an interview she did for the magazine ‘Cinemanía’.

Currently, three judicial investigations are underway into Depardieu’s alleged attacks, which appears to be just the tip of the iceberg of a long history. The digital newspaper ‘Mediapart’ published a report in April in which 13 actresses, makeup artists or other workers in the film industry accused him of sexual assault. Radio station France Inter revealed two more cases during the summer.

“The sacred monster allowed himself many things during that filming. Taking advantage of the privacy inside a float, she put her fat leg under her skirt supposedly to make me feel better…” actress Emmanuelle Debever wrote on her Facebook account in 2019. Specific, She accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1983. during the filming of ‘Danton’, directed by the well-known Polish director Andrzej Wajda. Debever, who was one of the first to break the veil of silence from which the film star benefited, died on December 6 after jumping from a bridge into the Seine. The police opened an investigation into the motivations for this alleged suicide, which rebounded on the famous performer.

“Everyone knows that he attacks women”

“All those who work with Depardieu know that he attacks women,” the actress Anouk Grinberg denounced in the magazine ‘Elle’, who admitted having seen herself as “He touched women’s asses, breasts, sex, at the same time he joked”. The evidence of their sexual assaults has existed for a long time. For more than a decade, there have been videos on YouTube of when he tried to kiss Argentine journalist Dolores Barreiro in 1990. At that same time, the actor gloated about having committed his first rape at the age of 9 in an interview with Time magazine. ‘. That generated controversy in the United States, but in France it was presented as a maneuver by American “purists” to not give him the Oscar for his performance in Cyrano de Bergerac.

Perhaps the most significant thing in the case of the ‘Monster’ is the indulgence from which he benefited for decades, especially thanks to the extravagant and Rabelaisian public persona—in reference to the excessiveness characteristic of the literature of François Rabelais—that was built. All this seasoned by his fame and money, which he possessed and generated by his presence in any film.

“It’s not just about him being a scoundrel and behaving like a scoundrel with women, but about the rest who let him do it,” Grinberg lamented in a radio interview. Despite the rape report in 2018, Depardieu has filmed nearly 20 films and series over the last four years. “He dedicates himself to working and I spend my time trying to survive,” Arnould denounced on Twitter.

Section of a promotion

The wind, however, begins to change direction. This year, Depardieu’s career suffered the first consequences for his machismo. In April, he was removed from the promotional campaign for the film ‘The Taste of Simple Things’. He also resigned, “in mutual agreement with director Michel Haznavicius (of the Oscar-winning ‘The Artist’)”, from the role he was to animate in the animated film ‘La Plus Précieuse des Marchandises’. And his agent Bertrand de Labbey announced in October that he was “no longer accepting any projects.”

The prime minister of Québec has removed the medal of honor from the famous actor. Belgium did the same. “It represents a shame for France,” declared French Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak. Despite this, the Elysée does not seem enthusiastic about the possibility of withdrawing the Legion of Honor. “We are proud of Depardieu,” President Emmanuel Macron defended in a television interview on Thursday, in which he described the wave of criticism as a “witch hunt.” Despite the multiple testimonies, a part of France refuses to open the Pandora’s box of the ‘Monster’.


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