Gainsbourg (Vie Héroïque)

The New Biopic of France's Bad-Boy Balladeer

When Serge Gainsbourg, perhaps France’s most beloved enfant terrible, died in 1991, Paris went into mourning. Crowds descended on his now graffiti-covered home in Rue de Vernueil on the Left Bank, leaving fitting tributes to the louche musician: countless bottles of whisky and pastis, and enough packets of Gitanes to keep him chain-smoking well into the afterlife. In comic book artist Joann Sfar’s debut film Gainsbourg (Vie Héroïque) the director inventively traces the transformation of the musician and poet (uncannily rendered by Eric Elmosnino) from Lucien Ginsburg to Serge Gainsbourg, using a devilish, puppet alter-ego to highlight a complex personality (Gainsbourg admitted to a Mr. Hyde-like alter-ego named "Gainsbarre," who he blamed for various drunken exploits). Sfar’s biopic, shot around Paris and in Jamaica (where Gainsbourg recorded his inflammatory reggae-version of "La Marseillaise"), spans 40 years, from Gainsbourg’s childhood in Nazi-occupied France, through his early chanson career, and on to his later, groundbreaking records. This film also chronicles his notorious love affairs with some of the most beautiful women ever. Laetitia Casta is ravishing as Brigitte Bardot, with whom Gainsbourg recorded Bonnie & Clyde in 1968 and had a highly publicized affair (snapped roaring around Paris in her convertible Triumph Spitfire). But Gainsbourg's enduring muse was, of course, Jane Birkin, his partner of 13 years. The epitome of swinging London at the time, the coltish English actress recorded the infamous heavy-breathing album “Je t’aime…moi non plus” with Gainsbourg in 1969, and from then on the two were inseparable; their daughter is the actor and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg. The late actor Lucy Gordon plays Birkin in this preview clip, where she gives Gainsbourg some choice sartorial advice.

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