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
Director Joann Sfar spent his boyhood enthralled by the mystique of Serge Gainsbourg. He moved to Paris as an adult expressly to meet his idol but unfortunately Gainsbourg died of a heart attack a month later. See more »
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 »
The life story of Serge Gainsbourg had to be filmed, and as he's one of the famous Frenchmen who aren't in fact Belgian, it's only a surprise that it took so long. That his life spanned the Nazi occupation to the rise of Disco would stretch credibility if this were fiction, but as it's all more or less true the director, who is already an accomplished graphic artist, manages to lift it to the level of slightly absurd fiction. Mixing in animation, self-consciously stagey sets and a life-sized puppet as Gainsbourg's dreaded alter ego.
Even the sordid lowlife is given the big treatment, and the early days in the garret look unashamedly glamorous as they would if re-imagined for an opera set or a Salvador Dali dream sequence, as director Joann Sfar lays it on with a trowel.
The episodic nature of the story gives it a rather patchy feel though, and I couldn't help thinking that one or two episodes, especially the cute Hollywood-style musical scene with Brigitte Bardot, could have been shorter. Bardot was just one of the high-profile women Gainsbourg captured, and so was the muse of the existentialists, Juliette Greco.The casting is pretty uncanny with the possible exception of Greco, who was never that model-thin.
Gainsbourg has always been, at least outside France, more famous for being cool than for his music. But his reworking of La Marseillaise which so upset the rightwing patriots of the Seventies was nothing but excellent. I'll go back just to hear that Sly and Robbie riddim one more time.
Quite a substantial feast but it's worth building up an appetite in advance. And of course, you get Jane Birkin and... That Song.
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