BRYN TILLY reviews his choice as best new movie release ...
Lucien Ginsburg was born the son of Jewish parents, in Paris, France, in 1928, but is best known to the world as the egocentric avant-pop-maestro and agent provocateur Serge Gainsbourg from the late 50s through the 60s and 70s.
And in French graphic novelist, screenwriter and director Joann Sfar’s excellent biopic Gainsbourg actor Eric Elmosnino embraces the celebrated and controversial songwriter and delivers him to perfection.
From his days learning piano from his father and skirting down back cobble-stoned alleys whilst Nazi troops marched by Serge sought attention and mischief. He created an alter-ego, Ugly Face, played on-screen to brilliant effect by Doug Jones, under an elaborate mask that is grotesquely striking, whom would rear his head in and out of Serge’s misadventures, conquests and dilemmas. Ugly Face provided him with both the inspiration and the provocation, the humiliation and the confrontation that would earn him the accolades and the heartache, the fame, glamour and trouble.
Director Joann Sfar has fashioned a wry and playful portrait of Gainsbourg that never wallows, but shows the man as a truly fallible human being, eager to please, loathe to conform, never suffering fools gladly, but always an opportunist, smoking Gitane cigarettes like they’re going out of vogue, and bedding some of the most beautiful and sensual women ever to grace the streets of the City of Lights. Whilst married to highly jealous and suspicious Elizabeth (Deborah Grall) he had a fleeting affair with the elusive and wealthy Juliette Gréco (Anna Mouglalis). Later he flirted and courted Bridget Bardot (Laetitia Casta), wrote her songs, and fell head over heels, but the romance was short-lived.
After two divorces he met the much younger Jane Birkin, an English singer and actress (the late Lucy Gordon) living in Paris. Together they had two children, one of whom is Charlotte Gainsbourg the actress. His last partner was Caroline von Paulus, who went under the stage name of Bambou whom he met at a nightclub when she was 21 and he was 52. She resisted his charms at first, but soon enough fell under his womanising spell. She was with him until his death in 1991.
The movie Gainsbourg doesn’t delve into Serge’s twilight years, preferring instead to fade on images of him still high on life, in a limousine with Bambou, being driven along a beach, having lived a life full of the kinds of highs and lows, most of us can only dream of. But his hard drinking, chain-smoking, and perpetual late nights caught up with him and he was forced to have liver surgery and recuperate. Of course his alter ego would have none of this convalescence.
What makes Gainsbourg so entertaining is the fast pace, the surreal sequences, the superb performances, the tongue-in-cheek tone, and the cult of personality that was Serge Gainsbourg. He may not have looked like the matinee idol he exuded through his sultry, alluring pop songs, but he got his leg over time and time again, much to the frustration and exasperation of those around him.
If you’re a music lover, a Francophile, a pop culture freak, a hedonist, perhaps even a cartoonist, you must see Gainsbourg, it is essential viewing as contrast to this current climate of manufactured bubblegum pop, fabricated fame, and fake plastic beauty. Gainsbourg is the antidote that whispers “I love you … I don’t either,” in your ear, giggles, then pops the champagne, whilst firing up another Gitane.
Film reviewer Bryn Tilly is also a Sydney DJ, scriptwriter and composer - and writes the blogs Horrorphile and Bruno Dante's Cult Projections.To see reviews of what Bryn Tilly regards as the best movies of 2009 click here. To have a laugh and enjoy Bruno Dante's article on the best ever sex scenes in mainstream cinema and independent movies click here. To go one step beyond and check out Bryn's world famous article (it gets over 100,000 viewers per month) on ACTUAL sex performed in mainstream (as in non-porn) cinema / movies click here.