During the French Revolution the Prussian nobleman Anacharsis Cloots became a "citizen of humanity." Today, we have the spectacle of Brigitte Bardot following the lead of Gérard Depardieu in seeking Russian citizenship. No doubt Depardieu's and Bardot's motives are as honorable as Cloots's: the former admires "Russian democracy" and is flattered by the attentions of that great democrat, Vladimir Putin, while the latter wishes to halt the impending euthanasia of two ailing elephants in the Lyon zoo. Let no one think for a moment that vulgar considerations of tax liability have anything to do with this sudden outbreak of interspecial solicitude. But surely the latest developments in this affair warrant the addition of a third term to Marx's famous sequence, "first time tragedy, second time farce." We are now through the looking glass.
What a blow to French vanity, though. If Bardot epitomized the French sensuality of the 60s and Depardieu with his ample loins represented the quintessence of Gallic lust in the 70s, time has not been kind to either of these specimens of "humanity." A cruel director, wishing to sum up French decline since 1968, could do worse than to cast a film featuring this rather forlorn couple as an exemplum warning of the dire consequences of lust unbridled and unredeemed by the slightest moral elevation. And to think that Depardieu once played Danton, de l'audace, encore de l'audace, toujours de l'audace. With his paean to Putin,, he has crossed the line between audacity and foolhardiness, and now Bardot, giving her all for the tuberculous elephants, has followed him over. Où sont les neiges d'antan?