France Aghast at "The Artist" Actor's Sleazy New Movie Ad

Diese Anzeige mit Jean Dujardin wurde in Paris wieder abgehängt, weil es ihr „an Respekt vor der Sittlichkeit” fehle. (Courtesy Black Dynamite Films)
(Courtesy Black Dynamite Films)

Jean Dujardin, known to U.S. audiences for his role in the Oscar-nominated film "The Artist," has a new comedy coming out in France February 29, "Les Infidèles" ("The Unfaithful Ones"). Somewhat surprisingly (this is Paris, after all, not Des Moines), posters featuring Dujardin and co-star Gilles Lellouche in sexually explicit positions with women have been taken down for not observing "respect for decency."

In the ad campaign, Dujardin and Lellouche are both pictured in business suits with cell phones held up to their ears. Dujardin holds a woman's outspread legs at the level of his shoulders while the tagline reads "I'm going into a meeting." As for Lellouche, the back of a woman's head is pictured in front of his crotch while he says on the phone, "I'm losing you, I'm going into a tunnel." When they appeared recently in the Paris subway system and on large advertising columns across the city, the ads provoked a great deal of debate on the Web, and the French advertising regulation authority received two complaints from the public.

Last week, the advertising authority asked billboard company J.C. Decaux to "immediately cease this campaign and to renounce any future use of these visuals." In a statement, the authority said that "these two posters...are contrary to the recommendations of the Advertising Regulation Authority, particularly the clauses relating to respect for decency and the image of the human person in advertising, even though they are connected to the subject of the movie, i.e., a comedy about adultery."

According to Le Figaro, J.C. Decaux removed the posters February 3, even before receiving the advertising regulation authority's letter. Le Parisien asked Dujardin, who is currently in California, if he had heard about the poster controversy. "I've heard about it, yes," the actor replied. "But all this is for laughs. So I don't really understand this fuss."

In the past, any denunciations of sexual images in French advertising were usually motivated by  religious concerns expressed by extremist groups and were largely ignored. But debates on the Web over this campaign have been focused on its depiction of women. Interestingly, back in 1982, an ad for the movie "Paradise Pour Tous" ("Paradise For All") showing its star in the same position as Dujardin was not censored.

"Les Infidèles" tells several different stories of male infidelity, directed by seven different directors. Dujardin, who, before "The Artist" was known as a comic actor, directed one of the segments himself, as did his co-star Lellouche. Only one of the filmmakers involved, Emmanuelle Bercot, is a woman. She does not usually make comedies, but has previously treated sexual themes in her films, describing troubled relationships between adolescents and adults.