Paul Simon returns to South Africa to explore the journey of his Graceland album, including the political backlash he received for allegedly breaking the UN cultural boycott of South Africa designed to end the Apartheid regime.
Lucien Ginsburg, a rebellious French Jewish boy with a grotesque imagination, hates playing the piano like his father, a bar professional, and manages to be admitted to Montmartre Academy as a painter, where he befriends an SS officer who helps him survive the occupation. After the war, he chooses to become a performing artist and adopts the stage name Serge Gainsbourg. His unorthodox songs bring him success, even his parents's approval, and lots of lovers, yet his marriages are all utter failures. Written by
In the 135 minute version of the film a nightclub reveler laughs about Gainsbourg being parodied on 'Guignols de l'info' (a French puppet show in which celebrities are mocked) but in the same scene Gainsbourg meets Bambou for the first time (his last wife). He married Bambou in 1981 but the Guignols were only created in 1988. See more »
As an Englishman I didn't have as much of an idea of Serge Gs career as most of the previous critics here, so a lot of this film was pretty educational. However, it wasn't a literal biopic by any means, using the cartoon characters alongside Serge (quite well, I thought) and the latter half of his life (I didn't realise when or whether he'd died until I'd read one of your reviewers!) seemed to tail off into nothing, even more than his increasing physical degradation was suggesting.
I found the emphasis on his sexual groundbreaking and role as a general iconoclast a bit similar to the film "Mesrine" which came out a year or two back - a similar time period was covered in that - masses of smoke and sexism! The actresses playing Jane Birkin and Juliette Greco are good (especially Jane Bs English/French accent) but "Brigitte Bardot" less so, and the scenes with her do go on a bit (although some of the poses are meant to correspond with real Bardot roles like "Et Dieu Crea La Femme" and "La Mepris".
The music fits in well with the film and, surprisingly - with the film making style - the intrusion of early 1960s loud pop, and of reggae, is quite a shock to the system, as it is intended to be, and was at the time. Perhaps I'm missing some of the French references, but in general the milieu Gainsbourg moved in might not be best served by a "straight" biopic with a Nicholas Cage-type performance, but the surrealist cartoons do detract from the picture we get of Serge - and believe me, it's not that easy to like him! I wasn't that keen on the precocious young boy stage of his life either - a bit too "that's the French way boys grow up" all very pre-Simone de Beauvoir.
Anyway shouldn't carp too long - I was glad I saw it and a lot will stay with me, although I'll remember the Django-type guitar playing possibly longer than the (apparently rather few) Gainsbourg songs which graced the soundtrack.
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