A film, concentrating on the personality of the composer-singer. An icon of twentieth century, not only for France, but to whole Europe, perhaps even to the whole Occidental world. Basically, this work of Joann Sfar is based onto the the most remarkable points of Gainsbourg’s life, and that is, oh, so comprehensible, because otherwise we’d have a film of five hours or more, nevertheless the two hours and twenty minutes seem already sufficient. And maybe even more than that.
This interpretation of Serge Gainsbourgs’ life is a work of flaming colors; of ambiances which change periodically with the passage of time, ups and downs of Serge’s life. At the end, regarding on all the milieus seen, we realize not only the length of the film, but as well the rapid cultural changes in France of twentieth century.
Pursuing on that, Sfar starts leading the spectator on a guided tour called ”Serge’s life”. It starts from the forties when France was bearing the heavy weight of German occupation – this is where Russian Jewish boy called Lucien Ginsburg grows up. Though, it is funny, that in this part of movie, we can find all the stereotypes of France, in particularly Paris, for which the rest of the world keeps going mad even nowadays. Let’s see, here we have the artistic ambiances of Monmartre, very similar to those of Belle Époque, bohemian to the bone – the cozy cafés, femmes fatales, chanson française and so on… This movie couldn’t be seen as a real biography, starting already with the small phantasms in a form of giant head of a Jewish man who comes out of a Nazi poster to play and dance with little Lucien. It is the same boy, who later imagines La Gueule, a caricatured idol of himself in the childhood, but a big, fat ego and an exteriorized inner voice, during the adult life.
Already as a kid, he is a real charmer, an artist with multiple talents, seducing everyone around him. With the time passing this capacity of seduction becomes more and more sexual. It grows in geometrical progression until we meet (very intimately) Brigitte Bardot, the sex symbol of the time. We possibly couldn’t denie that Laetitia Casta not only resembles very much to the authentic goddess of the time. She does give some quite authentic elements of Bardot’s performance in Vadim’s Et Dieu Créa La Femme. When dating Brigitte Bardot, Lucien Ginsbourg is already long gone, it’s now the eccentric, successful and famous Serge Gainsbourg. The self convinced type, always with a cigarette in the corner of his lips. Sfar realizes very well, that the “best-seller” of the Gainsbourg appearances is his profile view, which, no-one in nowadays’ Europe would never mistake. Perhaps, it is also that the man who plays Gainsbourg. Eric Elmosnino, from this point of view does not look like himself, but like his portrayed character. Stunning resemblance! And we can find a short reference to Antonioni’s Blow-Up. It is the iconic image of Jane Birkin, wearing nothing but bright colored stockings.
Being this far, it is not difficult to see that the main leading powers of Gainsbourg’s fame were… his talent and the charming trouble makers’ appearances. Sfar’s film has depicted them both. More, the presence of the phantasms and loud spoken dialogs with his inner him – La Gueule, points at the will to make this movie a bit different from a simple telling of a biography (assuming, that a large number already knows it). But still, I’d like to say that it is not enough to make this film a real masterpiece. The linearity is a little bit boring, and after the first half of the movie has been seen, you might want to check your watch. This is an unstoppable rolling towards the end, the only limit of the man – the end. But cinema has such wonderful possibilities to play with reality and even time, so why could we not have a little bit more interesting way of telling this exciting story? This makes the movie a bit plain, even with such wonderful and detailed work on visual elements.
The music? I guess it is inutile to say what kind and whose music we hear in the film. The relations between the music and images are well done, they illustrate time and place and whispers how Serge is doing. Whether you like it or not, it is already another question…