The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


Another day, another post about Serge Gainsbourg. But how can we help it? The man still exerts a profound influence on French and international pop music. Besides, even almost two decades after his death, he's still making news.

The poster for 'Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique)' by Joann SfarWhile exclusively revealing that the former Gainsbourg-Birkin residence lies in the shadow of Chateau French Letter, we mentioned in passing that a film has been made of Gainsbourg's life. Well, the first brief trailer has appeared in French cinemas, so we'll take the opportunity to tell you more.

'Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique)' - the part in brackets means 'heroic life' - will be released on 10 January 2010. It is directed by Joann Sfar, and is an adaptation of the director's own graphic novel about Serge. (By 'graphic novel' we mean a long-form comic book, not a saucy piece of prose.) The story begins with young Lucien Ginsburg, a Jewish boy in Nazi-occupied Paris, and ends with Gainsbarre, a drunken boor making a show of himself on '80s TV shows. Most importantly, though, in the middle it features Serge Gainsbourg, who made some of pop's most thrilling records.

The lead role is taken by theatre actor Eric Elmosnino, who has transformed himself into an uncanny double of the great man. Other parts go to more recognisable French screen players: award-winning young actress Sara Forestier plays France Gall; Laetitia Casta plays Brigitte Bardot and Anna Mougalis plays Juliette Greco.

As for the role of Jane Birkin, that's a story in itself. Gainsbourg's most famous creative and romantic partner is played by Lucy Gordon, an English actress who appeared in Spiderman 3 and a few lower-profile films. However, on 20 May of this year, two days before her 29th birthday and shortly after the final cut of the movie was screened privately, Gordon hung herself in her Paris apartment. Unconfirmed reports suggest that she had been deeply affected by the suicide of a friend.

Of course, mere impersonation isn't going to make for a good movie. Gainsbourg's complex nature and extraordinary story provide a considerable challenge for Sfar and his first film as a director.

Here is the 40-second trailer for 'Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique)'. Elmosnino, wreathed in smoke, perfectly captures the surprising effeminacy of late-'60s Serge. (This 1965 TV interview shows similar flickers of campness in Gainsbourg.) Gordon, for her part, does a good take of young Birkin the doe-eyed ingenue and improbable scandaliser of a generation. No prizes for guessing which piece of music soundtracks this clip:

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Nuggets from our archive

2002 - Interview with Rodrigo y Gabriela, by Cormac Looney. As with Damien Rice's profile, this interview was published before Rodrigo y Gabriela's career took off overseas. It too continues to attract considerable visits every month to the article from Wikipedia.