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Heroic Life (1/10)
by Tony Medley
Run time 122
This film, which
starts out well with good titles, quickly degenerates into something
that makes one think, "If this is a heroic life, what kind of life would
be unheroic." Because this film paints Gainsbourg (Eric Elmosnino, who
won the 2011 César as best actor) as a jerk. Worse, except for his
smoking and drinking and some of his many lovers like Brigitte Bardot (Laetitia
Casta) and Brit Jane Birkin (Lucy Gordon), with whom he had a 13-year
affair, we learn virtually nothing about the man. We don't know how he
wrote his songs; we don't know if there was any inspiration for them; we
don't know if they came easily or he labored over them; we don't know
how he finally got them recorded or performed; we know nothing. But we
do know that he drank a lot, smoked all the time, bedded a lot of
beautiful women, and that he was basically an unlikeable jerk. This is
a good job of acting, unless he was trying to create sympathy for
Gainsbourg. If so, he failed dismally. Casta is a beautiful, believable
Bardot. There is quite a bit of nudity, but it is certainly not erotic.
The production values are very good.
the film is psuedo-avant-garde, told by writer/director Joann Sfar (who
won a César in 2011 for this as Best First Film) with Serge almost
constantly being accompanied by his alter ego, who looks like a
hawk-nosed Pinocchio puppet with long, long fingers. It seems like it's
a fantasy. In fact, my companion thought it was fictional. She had never
heard of this guy and none of his music was familiar. That might be
because it was pretty forgettable. The film is replete with snippets
from his songs, but rarely are they played in full. Apparently what he's
most famous for is setting the French National Anthem, La
Marseillaise, to a reggae beat, which, according to this film,
caused a riot.
Sfar said "I
don't want to go around delving into his personal life to discover who
he really was. I couldn't care less about the truth." Sfar did
accomplish what he set out to accomplish: he tells virtually nothing
about the man and, clearly, what we see here is not the truth. Among the
many key figures in Gainsbourg's life that Sfar left out of the film is
Jacques Brel. Juliette Gréco (Anna Mouglalis) and France Gall (Sara
Forestier) do appear, but the film is so obtuse that their meaning to
his life is muted. There's apparently a lot to his story, but since Sfar
didn't think it important to deal with the "facts" of his interesting
life, what's the point of seeing his phantasmagoric film? In French.
August 24, 2011