New posters showing iconic French comedian Jacques Tati have caused a stink – because his trademark pipe has been replaced by a yellow toy windmill.
In the original picture, the actor and director of comedy classics such as Mon Oncle and Jour de Fetes is riding a bicycle with his pipe firmly clamped between his teeth.
Tati starred in his own films as Monsieur Hulot, a quixotic character confronting societal changes in postwar France. Mon Oncle was an instant international hit when it was released, and won the 1958 Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.
But new posters for a recent Jacques Tati retrospective show the iconic Hulot without his pipe after the Paris public transport network (RATP) banned the picture, citing a 1991 law that prohibits advertising tobacco.
“The law is the law,” said an RATP spokesman.
Organisers of the Tati film festival though are furious. “We cannot accept this kind of censorship in France,” said Costa Gravras, president of the Cinematheque Francaise. “It's his trademark and part of the character.”
Anti-smoking campaigners however said they understood why the change was necessary. “The photo itself would pose no problem if it were displayed at an exhibition,” said Gerard Audureau, a representative of a French association for non-smokers’ rights. “But, when a large number of giant posters are printed and put up in metro stations, then we should ask ourselves if they're not serving as publicity for cigarettes and for smoking.”