Going Up In Smoke

Going Up In Smoke

This past week, French senator, Nadine Grelet-Certenais, has struck a match in the French cinema world by proposing a ban on film stars smoking on screen. She states makes the habit coveted and provides free advertising to the tobacco industry. Now that Agnès Buzyn, the health minister, has echoed her sentiments, film-makers may have their hopes going up in smoke.

Unfortunately, this may be much more difficult than just banning them outright. Smoking a cigarette and French cinema have always gone together, and not just in the sense of being on the screen.

They are both very effective ways to kill time.

Think back to any famous French film without the hero positioned stoically surrounded by a delicate stream of twirling smoke... 

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What has kept this cinematic construct alive is not that it "looks cool" but, more importantly that it foreshadows the mortality of the French antihero. However, as a juxtaposition to their many on screen smoking characters, two of the most famous French film stars, Jean-Paul Belmondo & Alain Delon, are still alive into their 80s.

This has been mirrored in American film and television as well, specifically in period pieces such as Mad Men, Mindhunter, Narcos, etc. In order to accurately represent how these characters went through everyday life requires what was, at one time, an essential prop in the real world at that time. 

While this topic remains debated feverently, we can only hope French film-makers and politicians can come to a compromise to not only preserve artistic integrity, but be weary of glorifying an unhealthy habit. 

What do you think about the possibility of the French cinema going up in smoke? Leave a comment below!