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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 18:42 GMT
France unmoved by Casta's career move
Casta: Starred in the Asterix film with Gerard Depardieu
By Rory Mulholland in Paris

Supermodel Laetitia Casta, famed as the "face of France" is to stretch the imagination of her French fans by playing a melancholic Parisian prostitute in a film.

Yet few of her fellow countrymen seem bothered by the fact that the woman who is supposed to symbolise the Gallic nation should have taken such a role.

Casta was chosen in 1999 as the model for the bust of Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic which stands outside town halls nationwide.

Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix: Marianne in 1830
The bare-breasted, bonneted Marianne was the standard bearer of the revolutionary forces of 1789 and has been a symbol of the republic ever since.

Her face appears on French stamps, adorned French franc coins, and now figures on some of the French euro coins.

But Casta's latest role will see her starring in Rue des Plaisirs (Street of Pleasures) by veteran French director Patrice Leconte.

It tells the story of a brothel in Paris in 1945 just after the city's liberation from German occupation.

Casta: Famed for her looks
The brothel handyman, realising that his love for Marion (Casta) will remain unrequited, sets out to find a prince charming for his beloved.

But the prince turns out to be a villain.

So far no prominent Frenchman or woman has stood up to denounce Casta's latest casting.

And ordinary folk in the streets of Paris say they see no harm in the symbol of their country playing a hooker.

"She's an actress, after all," said Serge Martin, a 29-year-old secondary school teacher told BBC News Online. "You can hardly expect her to play only noble roles."

Brigitte Bardot was the model for an earlier bust
A good point, given that Casta's predecessors in the role of Marianne - who include actresses Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot - often played unsavoury characters in their films.

Deneuve, for example, was cast in Luis Bunuel's Belle de Jour as a bored, bourgeois housewife who spent her afternoons working in a high-class whorehouse for kicks.

"It's only her face that's important as a symbol of France. What Laetitia Casta herself does has no relevance to Marianne," added 45-year-old office worker Armelle Santos.

Casta is no stranger to scandal.


Most recently the 23-year-old supermodel came under fire from an environmental group for appearing in an advertisement which shows her reclining in a bowl of caviar.

But the most heated debate came early in 2000 over the decision by "the face of France" supermodel to move to London. French politicians lined up to denounce what they saw as treason.

The 36,000 members of the French Association of Mayors, who chose Casta as a figurehead, were asked if they wanted to keep her as their model.

They decided they did.

Casta's earlier film credits include Asterix, based on the popular comic book about the Gallic hero of the same name, in which she starred alongside Gerard Depardieu.

Rue Des Plaisirs is due for release in France in February.

See also:

03 Apr 00 | Europe
France galled by model move
08 Oct 99 | Europe
Model choice for French mayors
10 Sep 99 | Europe
France to pick millennium woman
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