French cinema retained a more popular dimension. Unlike the Hollywood studio system that fuelled a whole picture industry focused on adulated but totally inaccessible superstars, French films featured actresses and actors who the audience could relate to. These were films that focussed on the little things, the poetry of everyday life, some funny, some intimate but all of them anchored in reality.
By the 1930s, Champagne had entered popular culture and with it French cinema. Every day became an occasion to drink Champagne: special occasions (weddings, christenings, receptions) and not-so-special occasions alike. Bubbly enthusiasts came from all walks of life, some drinking it by the glass, others by the bottle, as in Jean Boyer’s Circonstances Atténuantes (1939, Extenuating Circumstances). Set in a little bar in the Paris suburbs, the film features an upstanding middle-class couple (Michel Simon as a retired judge and Suzanne Dantès as his wife) sharing bottles of Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne with a notorious band of crooks that include Arletty spouting gouaille (lippy repartee) by the minute.
Jean Gabin drank Champagne in practically all of his films (usually vintage Champagne and favourite brands of his): as a soldier on leave in Jean Grémillon’s Gueule d’Amour (1937, Lady Killer); and as a workman, tramp, crook and police commissioner in other films.
Some years later, Gérard Depardieu in Maurice Pialat’s Loulou (1980), to name but one of Pialat’s many films, shares a glass of Champagne with Isabelle Huppert at a warm, family meal.
In more recent films, it’s Champagne’s myriad symbolic associations that come into play: in a nightclub in Thomas Gilou’s La Vérité Si Je Mens! (1997, Would I Lie to You?); in the trenches in Christian Carion’s Joyeux Noël (2005, Merry Christmas) as soldiers on all sides suddenly declare their own unofficial truce; at a birthday in Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano’s Intouchables (2011, Untouchables), starring François Cluzet and Omar Sy; and at a family reunion in Philippe de Chauveron’s Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au Bon Dieu? (2014, Serial (Bad) Weddings).
In 2018 Laurent Tirard directed Le Retour du Heros (2018, The Return of the Hero): a historical comedy starring Mélanie Laurent and Jean Dujardin set in 1812, at the height of the Napoleonic wars. Champagne does of course make an appearance, but only after much reflection because nobody knew what a bottle of Champagne looked like in 1812.
So Champagne House Perrier-Jouët had different types of bottles specially made for the occasion, one of which – string-tied, sealed with wax and sporting a fake label – features in the scene where Dujardin seduces a married woman.