Since Screen Comment (an American publication) is headquartered in Paris we would be remiss not to cover the latest blowup concerning cinema, politics and civil society here. Actor Gérard Depardieu (“Green Card”) recently took up residence just across the Belgian border so as to avoid France’s excessively costly ISF (“impôt sur la fortune”) tax, imposed on the rich. Depardieu is not the first to expatriate himself, this country’s byzantine fiscal system having compelled others before him to give up their citizenship in order to dodge the taxman. Except that, because it’s Depardieu (he is France’s most visible and well-liked actor) everyone has predictably been up in arms, with various commentators from television studios to the hallowed halls of government speculating about the implications of his departure.
Recently French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault qualified the thespian’s Belgian vacation as “pathetic.” Depardieu countered by publishing a letter in the French daily Le Journal du Dimanche today. We’ve had it translated and are including it here:
“Pathetic, you’ve said ‘pathetic’? How pathetic. I was born in 1948, started working at fourteen as a printer, a manual worker and then as theater actor. I have always paid my taxes, whatever rate was applicable under any given government. At no time did I fail in my duties. The historical films which I have participated in attest to my love of France and its history. Individuals more renowned than I have been expatriated or left our country. There is unfortunately nothing left for me to do here but I will continue to love the French and the fans with whom I have shared so many emotions.
I am leaving because you consider that success, creativity, talent, in fact, dissimilarity, must be castigated.
I am not asking for your approval; at least I shall be respected.
All those who have left France have not been disprespected like I have been.
I do not need to justify the reasons behind my choice, they are manifold and they’re private.
I leave having paid taxes to the tune of 85% in 2012. But I will hold on to the spirit of this France which was beautiful and which, I hope, will remain so.
I am returning my passport to you, as well as my social security card since I’ve never had any use for it. We no longer have the same country, I am a true European, a citizen of the world, just like my father had always instilled in me.
The Justice Department’s relentless harassment of my son Guillaume, sentenced as a child to three years’ imprisonment for two grams of heroin when so many others have avoided imprisonment for much worse wrongdoings, is pathetic.
I’m not going to knock people who have high cholesterol, high-blood pressure, diabetes or too much alcohol or who fall asleep on their scooters: I am one of them, just like your dear media likes to reiterate so much.
I have never killed anyone, I don’t believe myself to be undeserving, I have paid $190M in taxes over forty-five years, I’ve got eighty people on my payroll working in companies which were created for them and which are managed by them.
I’m neither to be pitied nor praised, but I refuse the word “pathetic.”
Who are you to judge me so, I ask you M. Ayrault, Prime Minister of Mr. Hollande? I ask again: who are you?
In spite of my excesses, my appetites and my love of life, I am a free spirit, Sir, and I will remain polite.”