What are your favorite biggest fetishes

10 years of smoke-free Switzerland - smoking allowed: Why the cigarette is part of the film

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Public spaces in Switzerland have been smoke-free since May 1, 2010. Only in the cinema cannot Zigi be killed.

They all used to smoke: Marlene Dietrich, Humphrey Bogart, Sean Connery. The Bond actor even in a tuxedo. The first hundred years of film history are unthinkable without smoking stars.

The social climate only changed towards the end of the 20th century. The Marlboro man, who had dominated advertising since the 1950s, lost a lot of its radiance - after three prominent advertisers for the cigarette brand died between 1987 and 1995 of lung disease.

When at the beginning of the 21st century no one could deny the harmfulness of smoking, the wind turned in the cinema too. From now on the motto was: Puffing is not cool, but dangerous to the public.

Soother for the macho

Today we live in the age of health apps with which the good citizen voluntarily optimizes himself. So that he still exudes as much youthfulness in his mid-50s as clean man Tom Cruise.

Book reference

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Thank You for Smoking: The cigarette in the film. Belleville, 2014.

In this non-fiction book published in 2014, 27 filmmakers, journalists and cineastes explore the charm that smoking exudes as a gesture. Some proceed more historically, others more psychoanalytically. What the essays have in common is their ardent love for cinema and its favorite fetish.

Everything wasn't better in the past. But dirtier. Brando, Belmondo and Eastwood defined the contours of masculinity with the fluff in the corner of their mouth. In retrospect, they look like little boys admiring their glowing sticks: Look, mine is bigger, fatter, longer!

At the same time they signaled: Where there is smoke, there is also fire. Where there is fire, there is danger. And things that symbolically exude danger are, as is well known, highly sought after by filmmakers.

In today's cinema, Quentin Tarantino is one of the few who still unabashedly exploits this effect. Brad Pitt, as a constantly smoking stuntman in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood", seems unusually archaic.

Oral pleasure for the sinner

In terms of film history, can the cigarette be interpreted as a patriarchal symbol? Limited. While men used the phallic object to pimp their masculinity, women emphasized other, often more subtle facets of meaning.

Smoking rebels frequented the screen as early as the 1910s. They were the forerunners of the so-called "flappers" who caused a sensation in the 1920s with their short hair and even shorter skirts: They listened to jazz, sipped cocktails and smoked as much as they could. A decade later, the self-confident connoisseur was reinterpreted as a diabolical sinner: the “femme fatale”.

In the 30s, the cigarette reached its zenith as a means of acting. Marlene Dietrich gave the chopsticks, which often had sexual connotations, an almost magical quality. In Dietrich's hands the glowing wand gained in presence. In her mouth it literally grew beyond itself.

Beautiful to die for

Nowadays, the cigarette almost only appears in films as a deliberately set time signal. Smoking is only allowed to those who are in a historical context or an obviously artificially constructed cinema cosmos.

What a pity. Especially since the movie theater of the cigarette and its multitude of meanings had long served as a natural refuge. In which Cinephiles were able to train themselves in the “semiotics of smoking”, as film critic Georg Seesslen once aptly stated.

Because everyone agrees on one point: The cigarette is photogenic. As a cinematographic means of expression, it will never lose its appeal. Even if the Zigi seems totally anachronistic in the Corona crisis: like a sin from times long past.

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