Gainsbourg | Film review

Joann Sfar's bold debut is a highly enjoyable – if low on detail – life of the charismatic French singer Serge Gainsbourg

In the 1930s Warner Brothers developed a serious line in earnest, inspirational films celebrating great scientists, liberators and social benefactors, usually played by Edward G Robinson or Paul Muni, dedicated to Longfellow's lines in his "A Psalm of Life": "Lives of great men all remind us/ We can make our lives sublime/ And, departing, leave behind us/ Footprints on the sands of time." But Variety's contemptuous neologism "biopic" stuck, and biography has never had much standing in the cinema – unlike the literary world where, under the larger rubric of "life writing", it's a serious matter both to practise and study.

Orson Welles's Citizen Kane in the 1940s and the Italian Marxist Francesco Rosi's Salvatore Giuliano in the 60s attempted to find an inventive form that would
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