Gainsbourg Movie Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

Gainsbourg
Reviewed by George Constantin on November 7, 2010
Hopscotch
presents a film written and directed by Joann Sfar from his graphic novel
Starring: Eric Elmosnino, Anna Mouglalis, Laetitia Casta, Lucy Gordon, Mylene Jampanoi, Doug Jones, Kacey Mottet-Klein
Running Time: 122 mins
Rating: MA15+
Released: November 4, 2010


8/10

 


Writer-director Joann Sfar's Gainsbourg is yet another recent biopic from France. Based on the life of iconic French painter, singer, composer, writer, poet, and actor Serge Gainsbourg (born Lucien Ginsburg), the first half of the film looks his childhood in a Paris under German occupation. The second, looks at the chain-smoking, hard-drinking legend of the 60s and 70s French musical scene, and some of his numerous affairs, including those with Juliette Greco, France Gall, Brigitte Bardot, and Jane Birkin. Birkin would later become his wife and his greatest muse.

It's 1941, and the Germans have just occupied France. In Paris, twelve year old Lucien, like all French Jews, is required to wear the yellow star of David. Claiming to be a good friend of the local head of the SS, Lucien is first in line as he 'demands' his star. As he walks down the street, he's shadowed everywhere by a giant humpty-dumpty look-alike monster; this is the ghost of anti-Semitism that would follow him throughout his life. The monster eventually morphs into 'La Gueule' (the mug), a prosthetic caricature-like representation of Gainsbourg's alter-ego, complete with a hooked-nose and jug ears. La Gueule, masterfully played by Doug Jones, taunts Gainsbourg into drinking and smoking and leads him into all sorts of mischief, much to Gainsbourg’s eventual chagrin.

The film is thin on detail, particularly on Gainsbourg's early years, and there’s no mention of his two previous marriages before he meets Bardot and Birkin. This is precisely how Sfar had intended Gainsbourg to be – not a biopic, but rather, a celebration of the man and his music, with particular emphasis on his most creative period from 1966 to 1971.

Eric Elmosnino is superb in the title role. His performance is awe-inspiring; he is Gainsbourg. He talks and sings like Gainsbourg, and he does it so naturally, without having to imitate or mimic the man. It is truly remarkable, and is without doubt, one of the most outstanding performances I have seen in recent times. Laetitia Casta lights up the screen as the deliciously sexy Bardot, while running around Gainsbourg's apartment wrapped in a bath towel. Anna Mouglalis is outstanding as Greco, as is Kacey Mottet-Klein as the young Lucien.  Mylene Jampanoi is sympathetic as Bambou, Gainsbourg's last partner. Tragically, British actress Lucy Gordon who plays Birkin, had committed suicide prior to the release of the film, and the film is dedicated to her memory.

By his own admission, Sfar is a lifelong admirer of Gainsbourg. The bond between the two seems indelible; no doubt strengthened by their common Jewish ancestry. The film, Sfar's first feature, is a labour of love, and it shows. He wanted Gainsbourg to be as authentic as possible. This meant no original recordings of Gainsbourg's songs, and that meant in turn, no lip-synching. According to Sfar, "Everything will be re-done, re-worked, resung, and become larger than life", with Gainsbourg's signature song, Je t'aime, moi non plus being the only one presented in its original version. To this end, Sfar along with composer Olivier Daviaud, and production designer Christian Marti have succeeded brilliantly.

Gainsbourg is bold, innovative, engaging, but above all, a visually stunning film.  






 
 



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