Wednesday, 11 August 2010


A young schoolboy with prominent ears walks through the Paris streets. After he catches sight of a crudely drawn anti-Semitic propaganda poster, he unwittingly wills it to life, taking it on as a cynical sidekick named ‘The Mug’. Such whimsy is the language used by comic-book artist Joann Sfar as he portrays the story of Lucien Ginsburg, better known to the world as Serge Gainsbourg. The women in Gainsbourg’s life interact with this grotesque caricature as if it were still a part of him – until, that is, he settles down with English actress-singer Jane Birkin. Divorced from his alter ego, Gainsbourg’s work grows more fiercely political and his relationship crumbles, but a brief flirtation in a club appears to put him back in the right direction.

Though it certainly captures some of the essence of Gainsbourg’s haphazard life, Gainsbourg (Vie Héroïque) is a confusing extravaganza that rushes straight past emotion in order to keep the audience’s visual interest alight. Sfar might have been showing only the moments that Gainsbourg would have wanted to remember, but the film quickly grows frustrating as key moments in his life are compressed into ten-second shots. One doesn’t doubt that Gainsbourg must have had fond memories of his seduction of Brigitte Bardot, but for this affair to be given more screentime than his parents’ deaths combined seems almost disrespectful. An array of superb performances, helmed by Gainsbourg doppelgänger Éric Elmosnino, keep the viewer’s attention, but the film itself lacks the impact to leave an impression.

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