(Paris) The public admired him for his escapades, the profession put up with his excesses: the revelations about Gérard Depardieu’s behavior towards women shed harsh light on the awareness of French cinema in the fight against gender-based and sexual violence.

A national icon in the same way as Alain Delon or Brigitte Bardot, known throughout the world, he has long seemed to benefit from a certain indulgence. And this, even after his indictment for rape, in 2020, following a complaint from an actress then aged around twenty, Charlotte Arnould.

Six years after the affair began

Since the broadcast in early December on the France 2 television channel of a sequence filmed five years earlier in North Korea, the sacred monster seems radioactive. In these images, the actor, who contests the accusations against him, multiplies misogynistic and insulting remarks while addressing women, not sparing a little girl from his obscene remarks.

At the same time, a second complaint for sexual assault was filed against him by the actress Hélène Darras, for facts a priori prescribed, dating back to 2007 on a shoot.

Since then, rare mea culpa have been heard. “We are all a little guilty,” the president of the cinema producers’ union, Marc Missonnier, admitted on France 2. “There was a tolerance [towards Depardieu] which is a mistake.”

The actress Anouk Grinberg, who has known him for 30 years and only recently spoke out to support Charlotte Arnould, denounced again on Monday, on France Inter radio, the “monstrosity” of Depardieu.

“He was a sacred monster of cinema but everyone allowed him to be a monster, period,” she insisted, calling for an end to “the other monstrosity, […] that of the people of the cinema who are indifferent to the harm done to women, to the humiliations inflicted on them.”

But the tide is turning: bulimic about filming, Depardieu had to put his career on hiatus at the end of October, refusing to lend his voice to the next animated film by Michel Hazanavicius, the director of The Artist. And he was excluded from the Umami promotion last spring. With 50,000 admissions, the film was a dismal failure.

France Télévisions, whose manager judged that it was no longer necessary to “celebrate” Depardieu, is however careful not to censor the works of a major figure in the national cinematic heritage. The public television group clarified its position to AFP on Monday: “films with Gérard Depardieu will continue to be purchased and broadcast”, including several “masterpieces”.

The awareness surrounding the interpreter of Cyrano de Bergerac follows several cases which mark a change of atmosphere in the French 7th art.

Nicolas Bedos, who turned the elite of cinema from Guillaume Canet to Isabelle Adjani, will be tried in early 2024 for touching in a nightclub – an involuntary gesture according to him. Since July, he has been the target of an investigation for rape and sexual assault after three separate complaints.

In this context, it was on the sly that the Amazon Prime platform released its series, Alphonse, in October, with luxury distribution: Jean Dujardin, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Nicole Garcia…

More broadly, under pressure from activists, such as the 50/50 collective, and the authorities, prevention is progressing. Training in this area has become mandatory, while the use of intimacy coordinators for sex scenes is starting to become commonplace.

But French cinema has already experienced periods of introspection on the subject, before it fell into relative oblivion. In 2019, actress Adèle Haenel denounced the “control” of director Christophe Ruggia when she was a teenager, leading to her indictment for “sexual assault on a minor”. Four years later, she left an environment whose “complacency” she denounces.

And everything is not settled. This is evidenced by the fury of feminists when Dominique Boutonnat, the president of the public body overseeing the sector, supposed to work against this violence, the CNC, was renewed in his position by the State. Despite a case, not yet judged, of alleged sexual assault on his 21-year-old godson, which he contests.