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French magazine 'Les Inrocks' slammed for rock star convict cover

© Paulius Lileikis/Lieutuvos Ritas/AFP | French actress Marie Trintignant on the set of a French TV series about the novelist Colette, directed by her mother Nadine Trintignant, in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 2, 2003.

Text by Tracy MCNICOLL

Latest update : 2017-10-19

French music magazine Les Inrockuptibles has issued “regrets” a week after featuring a French rock star who beat his girlfriend to death on its cover.

In lionising the disgraced 53-year-old rocker Bertrand Cantat – convicted in the 2003 death of his girlfriend, actor Marie Trintignant, in Lithuania – the publication earned the ire of readers, celebrities and even cabinet ministers, who openly slammed the mag.

The “questionable” decision, as the magazine conceded Tuesday, a week after creating the controversy, to feature the former Noir Désir frontman on its October 11 cover was not helped by particularly egregious timing. In the wake of Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal, French social media has been awash for days with 140-character stories blasting men who harass, assault and abuse women, with a hashtag entreating women to #balancetonporc (squeal on your pig).

The influential left-leaning cultural weekly, nicknamed Les Inrocks, began life in 1986 as a rock music magazine, attuned to the zeitgeist. But given the swine-fighting climate, choosing to trumpet Cantat seemed socially tone deaf.

On the dubious cover, the scruffy singer -- promoting his first solo album after rising to stratospheric fame throughout the late 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s as the frontman for the French rock group Noir Désir -- is featured above the headline “Cantat in his own name” with a long quote of the singer detailing his emotional struggles.

Trintignant, a mother of four who was 41 when she died, had spent her life in the public eye as the daughter of the film director Nadine Trintignant and the actor Jean-Louis Trintignant, perhaps best known abroad for his role in the 2012 Cannes Palme d’Or winner Amour.

A critically acclaimed actor in her own right, Marie Trintignant was nominated five times for César awards, France’s Oscars. She was filming a TV movie under her mother’s direction on location in Lithuania in the summer of 2003 when she suffered severe brain damage during a violent argument with her rock star boyfriend in a Vilnius apartment hotel. She later died from her injuries.

A Lithuanian court convicted Cantat and sentenced him to eight years in prison. The singer served one year in Lithuania and three in France before his conditional release in 2007. Although his legal supervision ended in 2011, previous Cantat comebacks have met with similar anger, as when the rocker first returned to the stage in 2010 or when he fronted a new band in 2013, meaning the controversy stirred over the past week could not have come as a surprise.

“And in the name of what must we endure the promotion of the man who murdered Marie Trintignant with his fists? Let nothing slide,” tweeted Marlène Schiappa, France’s gender equality minister, in response to the Inrocks issue.

Schiappa’s predecessor, former women’s rights minister Laurence Rossignol, tweeted similar contempt, noting incredulously that the “Soundtrack of autumn” CD packaged with the Cantat issue gives top billing to Orelsan, a rapper once sued by feminist groups for lyrics that included “Ferme ta gueule ou tu vas te faire marie-trintigner” (Shut your mouth or you will meet the same fate as Marie Trintignant). “Shame on this magazine,” Rossignol wrote.

In an editorial, Cheek, which bills itself as an online women’s magazine for generation Y and which belongs to the same media group as Les Inrockuptibles, wrote, “The Bertrand Cantat cover is particularly symptomatic of an indulgence towards violent men, internalised for centuries by society in its entirety, and which had seriously begun to erode during the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal.” Then International Monetary Fund chief Strauss-Kahn, favoured to win the Socialist Party nomination ahead of the 2012 French presidential elections, saw his career halted by sexual assault allegations. “The choice of Cantat hides also the trivialisation of violence against women that the media world is accustomed to: the recent accounts by French journalists through the [#squealonyourpig] hashtag are yet another illustration.”

One person who came to Cantat’s defence over the past week is the judge who granted the fallen star’s parole in 2007. “I understand the emotion provoked by the cover of this magazine, but not the incredibly violent, sometimes hateful, reactions,” Philippe Laflaquière told French daily Le Parisien. He added, “Is it necessary for me to recall that he was convicted in Vilnius for ‘fatal blows’ and not for voluntary homicide? So it is incorrect to present him as a ‘murderer’ or worse as an ‘assassin’, always this tyranny of emotion.”

The latest row illustrates the tragic symbol Trintignant has become in battles observers note are all too often waged anonymously -- just the sort of concern social media campaigns like #MyHarveyWeinstein and #squealonyourpig were designed to offset.

In the Inrocks polemic, French actresses including Marina Hands and Vanessa Paradis elected to shine the spotlight on Trintignant instead of her killer by posting glamorous photos of their former colleague on Instagram.

“Marie Trintignant is on the cover of my Instagram,” César winner Emmanuelle Devos wrote. “What film would she have released yesterday? What play would she be in? Where could I have heard her pretty voice and marvelled at her magical presence?” Devos posted, saying she would like to see Trintignant on the next cover of Elle Magazine.

On Tuesday, France’s Elle did take a stand in an op-ed featuring a large photo of Trintignant under the headline riposte “In the name of Marie”. The iconic women’s weekly blasted Cantat’s “obscene media coverage” and proclaimed, “Marie Trintignant, we aren’t forgetting you.”

“Today, she is a symbol. With her singular grace, her face has become that of all female victims of violence by men. The face of the 123 faceless women killed by their partners last year. That of the 33 unknown women who, every day, report a rape in France. That of the women harassed or assaulted – 216,000 complaints were filed in 2016,” Elle opined. “To all of these women, like the actresses against Weinstein… they need courage.”

For Les Inrocks’ part, even before its controversial cover hit newsstands, a flub on its official Twitter feed hinted at internal dissent over the Cantat feature. As the French media watchdog news site Arrêtsurimages captured in a screengrab, a mock-up cover initially tweeted on the cultural weekly’s account included a sarcastic reinterpretation of the cover. The Photoshopped fake included an apocryphal quote under Cantat’s unshaven face: “In this whole scandal, the real victim is me.” Within a matter of minutes, Arrêtsurimages reported, the tweet was deleted.

In presenting its regrets on Tuesday, Les Inrockuptibles admitted there was disagreement within the newsroom over the story. But those “regrets” conspicuously don’t make the leap to “apologies”. The magazine’s statement discusses the importance of Noir Désir and Bertrand Cantat to the history and identity of the publication and says the article paired with the controversial cover was asking the question “why and how to make music when one has killed a woman?” The piece leaves contrition to the end of paragraph six, only to note: “Putting him on the cover was questionable. To those who felt hurt, we express our sincere regrets.”

Unsatisfied, feminist journalist Lauren Bastide, a former chief editor of Elle, was quick to blast Les Inrockuptibles’ lukewarm response to its Cantat controversy as too little, too late.

In a long thread calling the regretful editorial “almost as arrogant and obstinate as the stubborn silence”, Bastide tweeted, “It took @lesinrocks a week to emerge from its disdain. A week to decide to consult its newsroom. To end up mansplaining. #toolate”.

Date created : 2017-10-18


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