In the press notes for his movie GAINSBOURG: A HEROIC LIFE, writer/director/
cartoonist Joann Sfar tells us, "I obviously know Gainsbourg's 'real life' like the back of my hand. But I did not want to make a 'realistic' or 'documentary-like' film." Europeans and British -- of a certain age, at least -- will probably know the life of Serge Gainsbourg, the famous French singer, songwriter and provacateur of the 1960s and 70s, like the back of their hand, too. But Americans? Not so much.
TrustMovies, for instance, had heard and enjoyed a number of Gainsbourg's songs (many of them provocative, and in ways not only sexual, though that was a very large component of their and his success), and he knew of his relationship with British actress/model Jane Birkin and the offspring of that union, the fine actress Charlotte Gainsbourg. So he was prepared to have M. Sfar, shown at right, fill in a lot of blank spaces.
Immediately post-viewing, and for the week or two since spent mulling over the movie, most of those spaces remain open. I do, however, have a much stronger sense of the single thing that, according to the filmmaker, set Serge's life on its exhaustive course: the poor fellow's "ugly" mug face.
Doug Jones of the Hellboy movies) follows our hero, acts as his sidekick, comments on his doings, and always manages to undercut him at prime moments.
GreenCine, along with an interesting review of the film by Vadim Rizov.) I wish the shot were taken at more distance, so you could see at a glance how well it combines the sense of animation with live action in a singe character.)
Fréhel (played and sung by Yolande Moreau, below, center) is cute and pungent.
Lucy Gordon) and Bardot (Laetitia Casta, below) to Juliette Gréco (Anna Mouglalis) are presented with occasional choice detail (Gréco's talking cat) and lots of camera caresses (Bardot), so we get a sense of glamour, fame and the spark between each pair but little more. It's all whirlwind visuals, impressive but shallow.
Olivier Dahan's La Vie en Rose is one of the finer examples. But has he managed to expand and better the form with his own style? I am not so sure. Via the character of "The Mug," he's created an alternative reality without much reality in it. His outdoor scenes, maybe due to budgetary reasons, feature few extras or traffic, thus calling attention to this lack, rather than to the lead characters on screen. And all the visual panache on display finally has the effect of giildng the lily, or in this case, the hothouse orchid.
Dylan, and looking a lot like Jean-Pierre Cassel.
Music Box Films, opens this Wednesday, August 31, at Film Forum in New York, and in Los Angeles (at the NuArt) and Irvine,California (at Edwards' University Town Center). A national rollout will follow, and you can check all the cities, dates and theaters here.