DVD Review – GAINSBOURG (Vie Heroique)

After Watching F I was glad I decided to watch this movie next rather than first as it really cheered me up after a dull affair. The 20th century has brought us a fair share of colourful icons and this movie was about one of them….Serge Gainsbourg, artist cum singer/ songwriter who redefined the popular culture of the 1960’s & 1970’s  especially French culture.

Gainsbourg wasn’t a man to run away from controversy he was a charmer, provocateur, a troublemaker at times. He wasn’t blessed with the looks but his charm & personality but just look at the list of beautiful women Gainsbourg was able to charm: Bridget Bardot, Jane Birkin and Juliet Greco. There was a list of other excesses that plagued Gainsbourg’s life, Chain-smoking, sex and rock ‘n’ roll!!!

GAINSBOURG (Vie Heroique) is a film adapted from the director Johann Sfar‘s very own graphic novel based on the ‘Dirty Old Man’ of French culture starting in his teen days as the young cocky Jewish boy known as Lucien Gainsbourg. Starting in 1930’s into the 1940’s getting the early glimpses of the icon’s hypnotic charm in action when he seduces a  woman in his art class. So as the charm starts its first gear we suddenly transported into adult Gainsbourg’s life, the man that many people know and love the confident Serge Gainsbourg, the artist, provocateur, the instigator of lust & seduction into many young couples sex life lives with his benchmark song ‘J T’aime…Moi mon pas‘. The movie does have a lot of music but only seems to concentrate on the popular tunes like j t’aime and Bonnie and Clyde but at Mother time draws closer we see the end of his days with the ill-fated notorious ‘Aux Courcelles et Gaetera’ the reggae version of La Marseillaise the French National Anthem.This was the King of seductions darkest day, the day the French public made him public enemy number 1.

Don’t expect this movie to be a straight forward biopic as many filmmakers have attempted or even thought creating a movie have failed simply down to the fact of angering the songwriter’s fanbase. Due to the artist life, a straightforward movie would have been a disaster so someone who had experience of working on Gainsbourg’s life had to be the one to make the movie and Sfar was the perfect match. Gainsbourg is a surreal journey that ventures into fantasy been told like one of those myths or even like a fisherman tales about those great mythical sea monsters.Been the creator of a graphic novel based on the French icon Sfar perfectly capture the essence of his story transferring it with ease onto the big screen with the cockiness of the young Gainsbourg played brilliantly by Kacey Mottet-Klien right up to the adult Gainsbourg also perfectly played by Eric Elmosino who has a uncanny resemblance to the great man himself.

As the adult Gainsbourg in the public’s eye, he was an over confident man but privately he was an indecisive vulnerable human who couldn’t settle and had many demons who followed him every stage of his life. One of those demons we see throughout the movie was a giant grotesque puppet in the shape of a character Gainsbourg himself created whilst a teen which symbolised his ‘inner jew’ his culture he publically proud of during a nazi occupied France (he wore the star of David proudly not realising  how much danger he was in). Gainsbaille follows Gainsbourg into his adulthood first tormenting him before mentoring him whilst he was on his deathbed, the tormenting influencing many decisions he made in life.

Gainsbourg isn’t a perfect movie it has its faults especially at times in the story which felt a little scrappy and rushed though not ruining the story overall. Watch the young Gainsbourg was idyllic and helped the rest of the movie flow nicely playing like that perfect comic book movie that some of Hollywood have tried and failed to do. If you’re a purist as in straightforward biopic you may be disappointed as this will be too surreal for your liking then again Gainsbourg lived the real life fantasy a man who gave so much to French and pop culture but also couldn’t get rid of his personal demons. Whatever your opinion on Serge Gainsbourg this is a rather entering flick  that even makes chain smoking a cool thing when we know deep down it isn’t but what we can say is GAINSBOURG (Vie Heroique) is another perfect example that world cinema is now on par or even better than a lot of the crap that’s been churned out of Hollywood.

★★★★ | Paul Devine

Biography, Music, World Cinema | France, 2010 | 15 | Studiocanal | 10th January 2011 (UK) |Dir.Johan Sfar |Eric Elmosnino, Lucy Gordon, Laetitia Casta, Kacey Mottet Klein, Doug Jones


Posted originally at The Peoples Movies | 10th January 2011

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