I knew so little about Gainsbourg before I watched the film. That was partly because China went through a period of time when western music was banned. Anything that promoted ‘capitalism’ news, music, films, books. If there was any left for the general public, we knew it was cut and edited. Any intimate scenes in a western film were gone. We saw a man and a woman move their lips towards each other, then ‘cut!’, next scene got nothing to do with bodily contact. So abrupt, it must have been really upsetting and frustrating for some of the audience. I was too young to understand. I thought kisses were supposed to be like that.
Years ago, I saw a documentary about him. It was Gainsbourg live on stage singing a French song that I did not know a word. My first impression: who was that ugly singer? He was sweaty…all that sweats made him look morbid. I switched the channel.
“He was famous.” JF said.
Famous is probably an understatement for such a legend.
But I know so much about his daughter – Charlotte Gainsbourg. I don’t know exactly why I like her so much. She is certainly not a glamorous movie star in Hollywood standard – they most probably will tell her that she needs to get a boob job, then a jaw job to follow before they even think to give her a role.
I know Jane Birkin is her mother, who was the father? Serge Gainsbour, I later discovered on the internet. I googled his songs. “Je t’aime… moi non plus” Oh, yes, the song is so familiar to me. I must have heard so many times on the radio …I only knew it’s a love song. The versions I heard in China weren’t original. They were the ‘clean’ versions, just the music, no words, no deep breathes. I didn’t even know who wrote the music!
“It made to the top 1 in Britain, but of course, not many people understood French…” JF chuckled.
“Je vais et je viens, entre tes reins” (“I go and I come, in between your loins”)
“Tu es la vague, moi l’île nue” (“You are the wave, I the naked island”)
“L’amour physique est sans issue” (“Physical love is pointless”)
Gainsbourg is a wonderful film that brought an ignorant audience like me into his versatile music world with a fantasy-like style and surreal touch. It’s sexy, sentimental, outrageous, beautiful, touching, full of imagination. Joann Sfar captured the spirits of the hero, he created a modern legend.
It was phenomenal how a man with less than unconventional good look conquered the likes of Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot, who had a passionate love affair with Serge. He wrote the song Je t’aime… moi non plus for Bardot. It was a song to express desperation in physical love. It wasn’t released by the time as Bardot’s husband was furious about it. Two years later, Serge collaborated with Jane Birkin (his lover back then). It made an instant hit in Britain. The song was banned in some countries due to its sexual content
Joann Sfar tells a story introducing La Gueule (The Mug), a larger than life character to represent Gainsbourg’s alter ego. Rather than telling plain facts, he chose to present our hero in a comic book fair tale style to celebrate a legend.
Needless to say, another success of the film was the cast – Eric Elmosino bares an uncanny resemblance to Gainsbourg and so does Laetitial Casta to Brigitte Bardot. One of the highlights includes the sexy goddess making a grand entrance in her thigh high leather boots (made a comeback in last winter’s fashion) with a poodle on leash and her sensational singing and dancing ‘Comic Strip’ with just a white sheet around her nude body. Lucy Gordon gave her credible performance to a shy and fragile Jane Birkin. “Her French accent is excellent, sounds just like Jane Birkin!” JF commented.
The choice of music covers probably the best of Serge’s work. I was amazed by the range of music styles – classical, pop, techno, rock, funk, raeggae……Was the film really two hours long?