Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Movie Review: Gainsbourg - A Heroic Life

I wanted to see this last year when it was released in a few independent cinemas in NYC, but as usual, time got away from me, and I never made it in time. Whenever I am in California I always make at least one trip to my favourite record store, Dimple Records, and picked up a copy of the DVD there. As always, I never read reviews before reading or watching anything, so I didn't know what to expect, except that it was a new biopic on one of my favourite artists, the incomparable Serge Gainsbourg. Love him or hate him, you cannot dispute the immense amount of talent this man had.

The film starts with Gainsbourg (or the young Lucien Ginsberg) at home with his family while Paris falls under Nazi occupation and pretty much follows the timeline of his life via the multiple women he either had affairs with or married (Juliette Gréco, Brigitte Bardo, Jane Birkin and Bambou to name a few). There is a real personal twist on the part of the writer and director, Joann Sfar, where he uses his imagination as to how he thinks Gainsbourg's imagination worked, adding a graphic novel type element to the film in parts. I won't say any more about that because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who may have not seen it before. Music is of course an integral part to the storyline, portraying Gainsbourg's shift from painting to writing songs for himself and others, beginning with his random meeting with the multi-talented Boris Vian, through the different periods of his influences (and there are many), with special attention held on some of his more scandalous pieces (Je t'aime moi non plus and his reggae version of La Marseillaise for example).

Eric Elmosnino, who plays Gainsbourg, looks remarkably like him, and channels his multi-faceted personality wonderfully. Gainsbourg was an asshole and a drunk, but he was also full of talent and very much loved. I'm so happy that he was portrayed correctly - some biopics tend to elevate an artist instead of showing how they really were. Gainsbourg was always someone I wanted to despise because he could be so horrid, but never could, because he was just so original and wonderful. Laetitia Casta, who I never really thought much of, plays a great Bardot, but the English actress, Lucy Gordon, who played Jane Birkin, really shone in her role. While I was watching the film I kept trying to think about where I had seen her before, until it dawned on me that she had played an English girl in Les Poupées Russes, a French film that I adore. In any case, I just found out that she died not long after the filming wrapped on the Gainsbourg biopic, which made me feel very sad - such a talented actress...

An all-around positive review for this biopic - if you haven't seen it yet then I really suggest you do, even if you aren't a fan of Serge Gainsbourg. It's hugely entertaining.

More information on Serge Gainsbourg:
Wikipedia (English)
Gainsbourg.net (French)

1 comment:

Garage Scribbles said...

I always admired the talent rather than the man himself. Your absolutely right when you said he was an asshole, but a very interesting one I believe. This movie is one I will relish I'm sure. Can't wait to see it.
Tony Shelley, Leicester UK