Gainsbourg (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner30/07/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 115 mins

Imaginatively directed, entertaining biopic with a strong script, a superb soundtrack, a sexy supporting cast and a terrific central performance from Eric Elmosnino.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by cartoonist Joann Sfar, Gainsbourg is a biopic of French singer / songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, a frequently controversial figure who had success in a variety of different musical styles and bedded a string of famous lovers, including Brigitte Bardot (Laetitia Casta) and Jane Birkin (British actress Lucy Gordon, who sadly died after completing the film). After a delightful animated credits sequence, the film opens with young Lucien Ginsburg (Kacey Mottet-Klein) growing up in Nazi-occupied Paris, where grotesque figures from an anti-Semitic poster peel themselves off the walls and become a constant imaginary presence in his life, alternately goading him and giving him confidence.

The film then jumps forward to find Ginsburg (now played by big-nosed lookalike Eric Elmosnino) studying at art school and playing the piano under the name Serge Gainsbourg. His career takes off after famous singers such as Juliette Greco (Anna Mouglalis) and France Gall (Sara Forestier) have big hits with his songs and soon Gainsbourg is a superstar in his own right, experimenting with different musical styles, bedding famous women and drinking and smoking like his life depended on it.

The Good
Eric Elmosnino delivers an uncannily accurate performance and was clearly born to play Gainsbourg in much the same way that Christian McKay was born to play Welles in last year's Me and Orson Welles. There's also terrific support from Lucy Gordon and a show-stopping, ultra-sexy turn from Laetitia Casta as Bardot – her performance of 'Comic Strip' is one of several highlights.

Sfar's cartoonist sensibilities are constantly in evidence and the film is packed full of delightful visual touches: the animated interludes are excellent and the conceit of the marionette-like alter ego (Doug Jones in a papier mache head) works surprisingly well.

The Great
As with most biopics, it's fair to say that the film largely skips through the selected highlights of Gainsbourg's life, but the script does include several memorable smaller moments, such as young Lucien angrily demanding his Jewish star from a Nazi official or the charming scene where Gainsbourg's dad (Razvan Vasilescu) fails to contain his excitement that Brigitte Bardot is coming round for tea.

Worth seeing?
This is an enjoyable, stylishly directed and superbly acted biopic that will have you scouring HMV for Gainsbourg CDs. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 14/12/2017 14:59

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