Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Smoke Thickens ...

WARNING: This post includes photographs of people smoking, and should not be viewed by anyone under eighteen years of age.
More interesting info has come to light relating to the decision made by somebody (or more likely some body) in Britain to change Audrey Tautou's cigarette into a pen in the poster for Coco Avant Chanel (see post below).
First, it has been brought to my attention that the poster has been causing similar trouble - in France itself!
Though the ciggie image has been widely seen on cinema billboards, magazines and tv, it ran foul of the law on French public transport. Metrobus, which regulates advertising on Paris buses and trains is stretching the meaning of a law banning the “direct or indirect” promotion of smoking, intended purely to prevent tobacco advertising, and has insisted that the original image be replaced by a bland pic of Audrey stood next to the male lead. (At least they didn't use the pen.)
But here is an even more shocking example of Metrobus madness.
Kate at Silents & Talkies has alerted me to the above: Metrobus's crass defacement of Tati's pipe on the poster of a major exposition!
This, at least, has caused un petit furore, as reported by the Daily Telegraph's French correspondent Henry Samuel:
The move was decried as ridiculous by both the health minister and Claude Evin, the man responsible for drawing up the tobacco advertising law. He said it shouldn’t be applied when it came to France’s “cultural heritage”...
Yet despite calls to reason from all sides, Metrobus doesn’t see what the fuss is all about and is sticking to its guns with just the sort of absurd administrative rigidity that Tati would have found hilarious...
(The newspaper) Liberation has been vocally lambasting the Tati airbrushing, mockingly wondering why the authorities didn’t take offence to the fact that he is not wearing a helmet, is riding an old-fashioned, polluting vehicle and that the small boy riding behind him is not seated securely.
”Why not go all the way?” it asked. It has a point.
This is all running parallel with the incessant campaign in Britain to have smoking banned from movies themselves.
This is terrifying on two counts: because it would give our political masters explicit legal licence to inaccurately shape how reality is presented in movies, the kind of power we associate with totalitarian governments and one entirely incompatible with democracy, and because it could lead to the censoring or even banning of classic movies, in which all the lovely people pretty much smoked like trains.
There's also considerable irony here, too, because the campaign, like the existence of product placement, assumes unquestioningly that movies do have the power to influence their consumers and encourage imitative behaviours and acts - a notion vehemently denied when the time comes to face off those who object to the cinematic glamorisation of more trivial threats to public safety like murder, rape and torture. Suddenly, then, it is the gauchest and most naive notion imaginable.
This came notably to a head earlier this month when the frankly risible idea of allowing a bunch of attention-seekers to occupy the vacant fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in rotation got off to a rousing start when it was hijacked by a protester. Protesting what, you may wonder? The ever-encroaching state and its fascistic intrusions into individual conscience and private life?
Nah. Try again.
Leading the charge in Britain is a sinister organisation called Ash, dedicated to the complete criminalisation of all smoking everywhere.
Its creepy spokeswoman Amanda Sandford recently expressed her approval of an idea to have films in which characters smoke reclassified as 18, the equivalent of the American X certificate. “Where there is a lot of smoking in a film or where actors are making it look cool then I think there is a case for making it an 18,” she has said. (This will of course make Casablanca illegal for viewing by anyone under eighteen years of age. And that's just the first film that came into my head.)
When child wizard Daniel Radcliffe sparked up on stage during a production of Peter Shaffer’s Equus (which would already now be illegal under British law, along with any smoking in an enclosed public place) she warned: “It is regrettable that he is smoking, whatever the circumstances. He is a role model for young people and if he decided to take up smoking in real life that would be of great concern… Even though it is an act, nicotine is highly addictive and he could find himself hooked.”
Hands up anyone else who thinks it would be “of great concern” if Daniel Radcliffe started smoking in real life…
Just you, then, Amanda.
Terrifyingly, though, the idea is catching on.
From Metro, Monday March 17th, 2008:
Films featuring smoking could be slapped with an 18 certificate to stop children being encouraged to take up the habit.
The ban could hit many children's favourites including Walt Disney's 101 Dalmatians, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Pinocchio. The call for the age limit to be raised has come from Liverpool City ­Council which is threatening to overrule the British Board of Film Classification.
It claims research shows that young people are heavily influenced by ­seeing smoking depicted on the big screen.
'The international evidence is that one in two children between 11 and 18 who witness smoking in movies actually experiment with – and therefore start – smoking,' said Andy Hull, of Liverpool council.
As opposed to those hordes of children between 11 and 18 who don't witness smoking in movies. (They would be what scientists call a control group, essential for any such statistical inference to make any kind of sense.)
Incidentally, this is the same Andy Hull - Liverpool’s head of ‘public protection’ - who the year before last decided to tackle the problem of pigeons (Liverpool's second most pressing social menace after smoking) by using computer-controlled ‘robo-falcons.’ These are fibre glass birds of prey that slightly move and raise their wings every so often, and a bargain at just £1850 each, plus £80 for the mounting base and £95 for a ‘rotating arm’, or a mere £3450 for two of them on a 20 foot pneumatic pole.
They may seem expensive. But don't worry. According to Emma Haskell (director of PiCAS UK, an independent advisory body on the issue of bird control), they are also “completely ineffective”.
According to her, “The robotic hawks are almost laughable as a method of control and the cost associated with buying and installing the product...simply cannot be justified.”
So that’s Andy Hull, head of public protection at Liverpool City Council.
Strange days, my friends, strange days.
.................................."Put it out or I'll shoot."