THE pipe favoured by one of French cinemaâ€™s most enduring comic characters has fallen victim to advertisers who were worried about breaking an anti-smoking law â€“â€“ but have earned mockery and ridicule instead.
Jacques Tatiâ€™s Mr Hulot, whose pipe was as much a trademark as his hat and beige raincoat, is seen riding his Velosolex motor scooter in a poster advertising a retrospective at the Cinematheque de Paris.
But the pipe has been replaced by a small coloured whirligig by Metrobus, the group that manages advertising on Paris public transport, because of fears the pipe could break a law forbidding it from â€œdirect or indirectâ€ tobacco and alcohol advertising.
Mr Hulot, the accident-prone hero who stumbled benevolently through a series of films between 1953 and 1971, is one of the most immediately recognisable figures in French cinema and the affair of his pipe has sparked a minor uproar.
The Liberation daily was among many newspapers mocking the cover-up, pointing out that Mr Hulot is not wearing a helmet, is riding an old-fashioned, polluting vehicle and that the small boy riding behind him is not seated securely.
â€œWhy not go all the way with this legislative zeal?â€ it asked.
Even Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot has been worried. â€œWeâ€™re getting pretty ridiculous with this,â€ she said.
A Metrobus spokesman appeared unperturbed, reacting with the kind of assurance in adversity that would have done Mr Hulot proud.
â€œI really donâ€™t understand what all the fuss is about,â€ he said. â€“â€“ Reuters.