Tailed by the hallucinatory "ugly mug", the film takes us through Gainsbourg's highs and lows. His talent and charisma entrance beautiful women, including Juliette Gréco (Anna Mouglalis). Later in his career, Gainsbourg is to become the lover of no less than Brigitte Bardot (Laetitia Casta), with whom he originally intended to record hit song Je T'Aime.
Continue reading to find out what we thought of the film... Gainsbourg (15)
Starring: Eric Elmosnino, Anna Mouglalis, Laetitia Casta, Lucy Gordon,
Director: Joan Sfar
Running time: 130 mins
Trailer: Watch it here
In a nutshell: This is an artistic take on the life of musician, artist, writer and serial seducer, Serge Gainsbourg. Born as Lucien Ginsburg to Russian-Jewish parents in Paris in the 1920s, we see the young Gainsbourg shocked by an anti semitic poster, the cartoon face of which then haunts him for the rest of his life turning into his ugly alter-ego. Tailed by the hallucinatory "ugly mug", the film takes us through Gainsbourg's highs and lows. His talent and charisma entrance beautiful women, including Juliette Gréco (Anna Mouglalis). Later in his career, Gainsbourg is to become the lover of no less than Brigitte Bardot (Laetitia Casta), with whom he originally intended to record hit song Je T'Aime. It is when Gainsbourg meets Jane Birkin (Lucy Gordon) that his imaginary monster largely disappears from the action, suggesting that with Birkin Gainsbourg achieved an unselfconscious happiness and peace. However, Birkin was his link to the swinging world of pop scandal, celebrity and success and the 'mug' returns. Amidst the splendour and surreal twists of Gainsbourg's life we see him ending his days in an alcoholic stupor.
What's good about it? With a startling physical resemblance to Serge Gainsbourg, Elmosnino gives a real star turn, making him and his music understandable, to some degree, for non-French audiences and making this unique, exotic figure live again. Directed by graphic artist and uber-Gainsbourg-fan, Joan Sfar, the hero's story is told through images and music far more than any French lines spoken by the actors and this works perfectly as this is how Gainsbourg expressed himself. Sadly, Lucy Gordon, who played Birkin and gives an emotional and enchanting performance, killed herself shortly before the film's release in France.
What's not so good? It could be mistaken for an extended cigarette advert. In fact, with songwriting Serge puffing on a Gitane in almost every scene, you may need nicotine patches afterwards. Also this is not one for the masses, it can be very surreal and if you were hoping for all the intricate details of the legend's life explained simply in a journalistic manner you won't be satisfied with the film. In fact, it made us want to find out more about the man and go and listen to his music, but then that's what the director always wanted us to do, wasn't it?
Verdict: This isn't one of those linear biopics in the style of Ray or Walk The Line, this is something close to truly original and a great piece of artistic cinematography. Yes you could say, j'adore Gainsbourg.