Gérard Depardieu 'Betrays' France for Russia's Flat TaxS

There is not a detail in the story of France's Orson Welles Gérard Depardieu's apparently-real move to Russia to avoid higher taxes that will not delight you. After President François Hollande attempted to make good on his campaign pledge to increase taxes on the wealthy, Depardieu announced plans to leave France for Russia's 13% flat tax and his new best friend Vladimir Putin.

The flat tax is, of course, not all Russia has done to sweeten the deal. They have offered him a sweet bachelor pad:

Gérard Depardieu flew Sunday to the provincial town of Saransk, where he was greeted as a local hero and offered an apartment for free....The governor invited Depardieu to settle in Saransk and offered him an apartment of his choice.

Dinner with the president under an Olympic dome:

Putin granted his request last week and then welcomed the actor late Saturday to his residence in Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Russian television showed the two men embracing and then chatting over supper, discussing a soon-to-be-released film in which Depardieu plays Russian monk Grigory Rasputin.

A chorus of happy, singing townspeople:

He was met at a snow-covered airport by the governor and a group of women in traditional costume singing folk songs. He flashed his new passport to the crowd before setting out on a tour of the town.

Perhaps even a village of his own in this frozen paradise:

Depardieu has not said where he would take up residence in Russia, only that he did not want to live in Moscow because it is too big and he prefers a village.

He is already a "popular figure" in Russia for his numerous appearances in national ad campaigns. Depardieu's Baltimor ketchup ads lack the frenzied intensity of Orson's Paul Masson commercials, but they show great promise nonetheless.

The French Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac called the move "pathetic." President Hollande spoke with Depardieu over the phone at length on New Year's Day, a conversation that addressed his "tax exile, politics and poetry." You can leave France, but not before you've had your official exit interview and poetry analysis with the president.

There's so much that France will be losing, and so much that Russia will gain. From the Guardian:

[Depardieu] has been involved in, and survived, more than a dozen motorbike accidents and in 1996 escaped unscathed when a small plane he was in collided with a Boeing 727 on the ground at Madrid airport.

In 2000, he had emergency multiple open-heart surgery – he turned up at the hospital on his motorbike. Afterwards, doctors warned him to cut out his four to five bottles of red wine and three packets of Gitanes a day. He stopped smoking.

Brigitte Bardot defended Depardieu the Deathless' decision, saying she thinks he's been the "victim of extremely unfair persecution. Even if he is a fan of bullfighting, that does not prevent him being an exceptional actor who represents France with a unique fame and popularity." Which really says it all.

[Image via Getty Images]