Gainsbourg

The other night we went and saw the new French film Gainsbourg, about one of my favourite popular singers, Serge Gainsbourg.

It’s an interesting film – I don’t think it really did justice to the great man, but it’s a big task for one so talented, so revered, so complex. The film focused on the women in his life: Juliette Greco, Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin, and the actresses all do a good job portraying them (especially Laetitia Casta as Bardot, she gave me shivers in her opening scene) but at the end of it, I felt as if his magnetism hadn’t really come across. Eric Elmosnino portrayed Gainsbourg at all ages from young man to old(er).

I feel as I’m making excuses for them, but it’s hard to portray real characters.

After seeing it, I planned a post about La Bardot, the eternal Bardot who style never seems to fade but since then it’s Birkin who has been uppermost in my mind.

Coming after Bardot (no easy feat), she stole his heart, married him, gave birth to Charlotte and after thirteen crazy years, left him. There are many photos of the two of them, and they testify to the strong bond between them. Here’s a nice shot of the two of them, walking down the street in the early ’70s – that’s probably Charlotte in the bassinette.

Click on it to see a larger version: they look so happy! I love how Jane wears Mary Janes with her hot pants and stockings.

A few years ago Tim and I visited Gainsbourg’s grave in Paris – it surprised me to see that he was buried with his parents, and speaks a lot about his life and his values. The grave was covered in fan mementos: love letters, artworks, flowers and vegetables. My memory tells me that they were pumpkins but after seeing the film I’m confident that I’m wrong – they must have been cabbages.

It didn’t make a lot of sense to me until I saw this film (yes, I’ve listened to quite a bit of Gainsbourg but my French isn’t good enough to discern the requisite composition). I can’t see any cabbages (or pumpkins) but here is the photo I took in early February, 2005.

We went to see Jane Birkin sing when she performed in Melbourne a few years ago: she’s still so beautiful and vibrant. In many ways the ’60s seems like a long time ago but seeing Jane dance wearing a red 1930s style silk dress, it feels like it never went away.

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3 comments

  1. Interesting to read your reactions to the film. đŸ™‚ I loved “Gainsbourg”, and felt that it captured beautifully the whimsy and passion of Serge’s songs — as well as the cultural tempo and the fashions of different eras. For me the ending was unsatisfying from a narrative point of view, but it was always going to be difficult trying to encapsulate such an intense and varied life.

    I thought Lucy Gordon really incarnated the tomboy chic of Jane Birkin’s 60s ingenue. But for me, the real femme fatale of the piece was Anna Mouglalis as Juliette GrĂ©co. Her look – stunning – ultra-dramatic, almost Cleopatra-esque, with those strong brows.

    Visiting Paris in September of this year, I also made the trip to Serge’s grave… wow, it is seriously the most popular tomb in Montmartre, and we literally had to queue! Parisians and tourists of all ages were flocking to it. It occurred to me that it would make a wonderful documentary to record their stories. Since your visit, the family tomb has become even more covered with tributes from ardent fans. I took this picture.

    Love your blog.

  2. Thanks for your comment Catherine: you’re right, Mouglaslis’ GrĂ©co was fabulous, a real temptress – it’s a pity that we didn’t see more of her!

    Nice pic of the grave – we were there in the middle of winter so not so many tourists. I’m sure that Serge would love all the attention. It’s always surprised me that his popularity hasn’t transferred to other countries but he is incredibly French!

  3. Hi
    The problem with the film is it tries not to be a straight biography. Serge was a complicated man as all truly talented people are (maybe we all are) and it tries to show his demons in cartoon form it is after all based on a graphic novel. Good Photos btw My wife endured me visisting his grave and house,plus he had a career of 30 years you cannot fit that in a 2 hour film.
    G

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