2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Gainsbourg (Vie héroïque) is going to suffer in the Anglo-Saxon world from the acutely French nature of his appeal. His work over parts of five decades was wide-ranging and hard to categorise, but for most of us it is centered around "Je t'aime" delivered with lots of grunting and the reedy voice of Jane Birkin. My knowledge of French music starts to weaken with Georges Ulmer in Pigalle and is gone with Jacques Brel (assuming we can count him as French for this purpose) thereafter it is warbling songs by female singers for whom one's true interest was the photo on the record sleeve..... bonjour Francoise Hardy. Accordingly, I missed many of the musical themes the film brings in, though even I could detect a number of the sexual themes which seem to have obsessed him.
I suspect in good part the film is concerned with Gainsbourg's ability to have affairs with numerous attractive women. Here Eric Elmosnino plays him with a remarkable level of believability, and an uncanny physical likeness. Gainsbourg as intellectual (and maybe satyr) comes through from his precocious childhood (admirably played by Kacey Mottet Klein) into his less successful era as a painter and his constant belief in his own ugliness (his gueule - represented by an actor with a big-nose-big-ears headpiece). His descent into drink and his movement into other musical styles is not as fully sketched. Gainsbourg was a remarkable artist, a bit of a bastard but without the background of his other music the film left me to start exploring the man's work.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Fans of Serge Gainsbourg may be a little disappointed that "Gainsbourg:Vie Heroique", by Joann Sfar, offers a somewhat fragmented and kaleidoscopic picture of the great French singer and songwriter, instead of a more straight, documentary style biopic. Somewhat in the manner of the British movie, "Sex and Drugs and Rock n'Roll",(2009), where Andy Serkis recreated Ian Dury unforgettably in a series of episodes from the performer's life, Sfar presents a series of tableaux, each one of which illustrates a particular theme which the director considers significant in relation to Gainsbourg's career.
Eric Elmosnino gives a terrific performance in the name role. Other players too give outstanding performances, not only in terms of their vitality but also to an uncanny degree in looking so much like the characters Gainsbourg encountered during his life. In this regard the actors who played Bardot (Laetitia Casta), Juliette Greco (Anna Mouglalis), and Jane Birkin (the late Lucy Gordon), were outstanding. Other characters, including Frehel, Georges Brassens, Boris Vian and Django Reinhard, also appear briefly and much trouble has been taken to find actors who greatly resemble the original figures.
The film throughout is a wonderfully colourful and witty tribute to Gainsbourg's life and times - it is visually very beautiful - but more importantly it has a tough political edge in relation to its treatment of anti-semitism, both in the France of Gainsbourg's time, and in personal terms of the singer's perception of himself. Again, fans of the singer may regret that less attention is paid to Gainsbourg's music, but maybe someone is already preparing the documentary that would complete the picture.
Altogether the film is an entertaining and vivid recreation of an era in French culture. Highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 October 2014
Captivating biopic directed by French director, novelist, comics artist Joann Sfar.
If Gainsbourg was a river that ran deep in your world, if he was part of your cultural fabric, you will fall in love with the film, grateful that he has been recreated--beautifully--, that you can spend two hours in his company again, trying to puzzle out what happened to him. I loved witnessing once again the remarkable eloquence of this man of letters, his musical and poetic genius, his cutting wit, cheekiness, poker face, understated singing style, the subversiveness that was present from the outset, his vulnerability, his antics, drunken debauchery, quiet rage, the ears, the hooter, the string of alluring and high-profile women...
Each episode blends into the next seamlessly - a rare feat in a biopic.
I loved witnessing the love with which one artist, Sfar, paid homage to another.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a film like almost no other. It tells the story of Serge Gainsbourg, one of France's most popular, and controversial, musicians.
The film deals with various episodes in his life, from growing up as a Jew in Nazi occupied France, through his noted affairs, his fist steps in the world of music, the creation of `J'Taime', his relationship with his parents, wives and children, and the controversy surrounding his recording fo the French national anthem.
So far so run of the mill biographical picture. But there is something that sets this film apart, and that is the slightly surreal air. Gainsbourg is haunted by various animated characters, notably Professor Flipus, a sublimation of his own sub-conscience and baser desires. These animations have a charm all of their own, and serve to really push the story and explore Gainsbourg's motivations.
I have to confess that after watching the film, I had a better understanding of the man, but I didn't warm to him much and had a feeling of slight distaste for him. His music, while not always to my taste, is very good and it is easy to see why he became such an icon in France.
This is a very charming film that presents the life of this essentially unlikeable man in a way that keeps the viewer engaged. It is quirky, funny in places, moving in others. It is quite unique. Four stars.
The film is in French with English subtitles.
on 29 March 2015
How do you make a film of a life which was larger than life? Difficult indeed, and the makers of this film decided to try to do so by giving it a surrealistic touch, with the involvement of a (psychoanalytical) puppet named Dr. Flipus. Not the kind of thing I would habitually like, but how else would you try to approach such a very complex character, so full of contradictions? Who had for instance a fatal attraction for women, in spite of his ugliness, and although he didn't seem to treat them well. Whose partner Jane Birkin could never forget him. Whose daughter Charlotte refused for four days to have him buried and even today maintains his house as a sort of shrine. (You can visit it in Paris, rue de Verneuil, but only on the outside, which is covered in graffiti).
I accepted the puppet solution in this case: I couldn't think of any other way to make such a film - except maybe to not make it at all.
Clearly, Serge was an ambivalent figure. Enormously talented, but gravely flawed. He had a terrific capacity for self-destruction, his death was a slow suicide, perpetrated by drink and smoke. Why this capacity for self-destruction, in the face of the enormous public success at the time? Why all those drunken interviews on (French) TV, all the provocations which were simply nasty, without getting him anywhere? Well, it contributed towards the notoriety he apparently craved... The film doesn't really offer an answer to the complex issues, although we might suspect something in the difficult childhood of a sensitive Jewish boy, who had to live through the horrors of the Second World War in 'free France'. Nor is there a definitive biography available, at least not in English (the ones available appear to be deeply flawed).
Could anyone offer an answer to the issues surrounding his life and work? Maybe his close family could help, but their lips appear to be sealed. As far as I could see in the credits, most of his close family didn't cooperate in the making of the movie. Or if they did, they didn't want to be credited.
My unmitigated praise goes to Eric Elmosnino, who plays the role of Gainsbourg himself. The physical resemblance is uncanny and he gets into the role with both feet, so to speak. You will find lots of TV interviews with Gainsbourg himself on U-Tube etc. so you can compare. If you are interested in Gainsbourg, or in the time and place in which he lived, this is definitely a film to see. We are unlikely to get a better version. But, seen just as a movie, the film has its flaws.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Whilst those who inhabit a vanilla world, a place Serge would have thrown up over, want a straight bio pic, the Director has taken the elan of Serge to recreate him within this masterpiece, because this is a piece of electric celluloid, faithful to the man.
Haunted by his ugliness and Jewishness, handed to him at a time when France willingly surrendered its populace to feed the National Socialist war machine, Serge rises on a current of surrealistic fervor. Haunted by his dead brother, similar to Elvis, he broadcast his internal dialogue to him, much to the surprise of those who evolved around him.
Viewing himself as a painter he sought an expression of his carnal desires rising to the surface at a young age. His air of adult noir enabled him to mix beyond his categorised racial stereotype to transcend. Serge was all about transcendence. Operating as a guiding spirit from an early he began to translate his thoughts into the world and then awaited the reaction.
As such he scandalised the nation a number of times; Je t'aime, a reggae version of the Marsellaise, Lemon Incest as he took a wry stance upon the world viewed from an existential crisis. Serge documented the philosophical fears of the ordinary man within his takes upon the world turning around outside is brain.
Then there were the love affairs, the ugly man, was somehow steeped in charisma that the worlds beauties would fall at his feet, primarily because they connected to his spirit, the rebellious, sensuality which freed women as much as men from the bondage or prurient Catholicism which seeps within the middlebrow view of cultural supremacy. Serge had his revenge as he took it all apart piece by piece with his observations.
The film captures all of this and more, funny, hilarious, excruciating, weird and sad - just like his songs you get spun around his world and get a glimpse into a Bohemian outsider who moved into becoming a pin to puncture french pretention.
Then within the film are the women, the ones who make his world complete, but the achilles heel of Serge was his psychological health which dipped and soared as he veered to self medication with alcohol to keep it all intact. So you are led into a magnificent world.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 21 February 2012
I had previously bought a copy of Gainsbourg. I bought this copy to give to a cohort who shares my interest in in cinema. Upon watching it with her I was surprised to find it was a different edit and different translation. Meanings were changed and some of the coherence was lost. Both copies were different than the version shown in the theatre. This is certainly a deterrent on buying DVDs by mail order. There should be some way of ensuring that the DVDs offered to the public are the same as shown in theatres or a warning is given. Very disappointing.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2012
A wonderful film - if you can get your hands on the full version.
The edit presented on this DVD is appalling. Rather than showing a story (as in the cinema version), all the linking passages have been taken out, leaving a bunch of disjointed scenes.
To add insult to injury, one of my favourite scenes from the cinema version has been ruined by the sound being out of sync with the picture (the music lesson with the Jewish orphans).
A great film, butchered by amateurish editing, which appears to have been done for absolutely no good reason.
on 29 December 2014
Great film, quite unusual, far more than your standard biopic. Definitely worth owning in Blu-ray, and watching with good speakers!
10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2010
If you only know Serge Gainsbourg from his steamy duet with Jean Birkin, then you're missing out. Gainsbourg, unlike many French singers, has what it takes to appeal to an international audience and his recording career was huge, so there's bound to be something for everyone - there's the ballads, the pop, the trippy, the soundtracks, the reggae, rap even.
This film is a good starting point for anyone interested in finding out more and exploring the work of the maverick musician. This film is excellent - it's a great watch and a beautiful piece of cinema. This is a bio pic on a par with "I'm Not There" for my money eschewing many of the conventions of Hollywood bio pics to tell the story with real style and wit.
If this film starts you off on a journey of discovering the music, you'll never regret watching it.