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The French film Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

Singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg is a major French icon and an important figure in French culture and history. He is often described as a lady’s man and chain smoker. He was born into a Russian Jewish family in Paris in 1928. At this time, France was occupied under the German Nazi which affected Geinsbougs childhood in many ways and eventually forced him and his family to flee Paris.

In his early thirties he concentrated on his painting but earned a living by playing piano in a bar. Over the years, music became an increasingly important part of his life. He was very experimental with his music, writing songs in different music styles such as jazz, pop, funk, rock, reggae and electrionica.

Gainsbourg had an exciting private life with passionate love affairs with famous actresses, models and singers. He was first married to Elisabeth “Lize” Levitsky, but got divorce in 1957. He then married Françoise-Antoinette “Béatrice” Pancrazzi whom he had two children with: Natacha and Paul. When that marriage ended he had a short but passionate love affair with famous singer, actress and model Birgitte Bardot. In 1968, he met and fell in love with the English singer and actress Jane Birkin. Their relationship lasted over 10 years and together they had a daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg.

The movie Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (Gainsbourg: Vie héroïque) is a revealing, biographical film made in 2010, directed by Joann Sfar. Kacey Mottet Klein plays Gainsbourg as a child growing up in Paris. We see how Gainsbourg and his family are forced to carry the yellow star when the Nazis take over Paris. As a child Gainsbourg takes on an alter ego portrayed as a large cartoon of himself. This alter ego follows him as he grows up, giving him bad advise, pushing him to act on his urges, which is not always the best decision. As an adult, Gainsbourg (now played by EricElmosnino) concentrates on his painting and sings to earn a living. He rises to fame when he starts experimenting with music. The women of his life start to appear one after the another in either marriages or love affairs. We have Birgitte Bardot, played by Laetitia Casta, with whom he has the passionated love affair and makes the duet “Bonnie and Clyde”. Also the English singer, Jane Birkin, whom he marries and makes many songs with such as the very famous song “Je t’aime…moi non plus“(1969).

I highly recommend this movie to everyone. It’s hard for me to say how accurate it is, but this movie absolutely gives you insight into this man’s life. In addition, it is a perfect way to learn French since that’s the language of the movie. While I’m studying French at Azurlinga in Nice, I have the opportunity to see a lot of new French films, both in school and in cinemas around town.

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2 Responses to “The French film Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Oui je vraiment veux voir aussi! Un ami à moi, elle a déja vu, et comme je l’ai compris, elle a aime beaucoup! Un film francais avec beaucoup de drama et l’amour, c’est parfaite pour moi!! :)

  2. yann says:

    this singer was one of most famous in france a lot of his songs was sang by à lot of french !


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