Two kids are sitting at the beach. “Can I put my hand in yours?” Asks the boy timidly. “No you’re too ugly,” exclaims the girl as she runs away. Gainsbourg’s ugly mug then proceeds to follows him throughout the remainder of the film. Literally. Offering advice. It’s his Harvey, his Drop Dead Fred, his Donnie Darko. “Django only used 2 fingers the mug says to young Serge. ‘The rest can be sacrificed. “ At one point Gainsbourg pulls a gun on it. Just to get it off his back. But his mug can also be helpful dragging him kicking and screaming where he needs to be. “Make some poisoned apples,” it says. And then he explodes into stardom.
In case you hadn’t guessed, Gainsbourg isn’t your typical biopic. It’s strange and surreal, episodic in structure. Sure it travels through his precocious artistic childhood in Nazi occupied France, through his affair with Brigitte Bardot, meeting Jane Birkin and it’s all tied into his artistic process. His songs with Birkin and Bardot are seductions. The beast who attracted the beauties. Bardot in particular is distraught after singing his first love song with him. Possibly because she was married at the time.
His nose grows, his ears expand. He walks around with a cabbage on his head and his world falls apart, descending into more alcohol and cigarettes. There hasn’t been a biopic like this since Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch, so liberal with the text but so true to his aesthetic. The film itself is an artistic development of the themes that consumed him. Then of course it all occurs amongst those incredible tunes like Bonnie and Clyde and of course je t’aime…moi non plus which caused a sensation. A remarkable film about a remarkable life.
Bob Baker Fish