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The Untold Story of a Musical Icon

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 130 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

When learning I was to review this movie I have to admit that I was in the ‘Gainsbourg, who?’ camp. After a rushed bit of Wikipediaing I found out that he was an influential, French singer-songwriter who was paradoxically an ugly man with a knack of bedding beautiful women. This lack of prior knowledge would force me to look at Joann Sfar’s re-telling of Serge Gainsbourg’s life as more of a work to entertain than a factual narative. This is just as well as Gainsbourg (Vie Herorique) is less of a bog-standard biography than an artsy conversion of a graphic novel.

The film tells the story of this enigmatic musician in more-or-less chronological fashion as Gainsbourg, played by unlucky lookalike Eric Elmosnino, enthralled the world during the Sixties and Seventies with his music and inexplicable sexual liaisons with a series of beautiful women including Bridget Bardot, Jane Birkin and Juliette Gréco (played by Casta, Gordon and Mouglalis respectively). Serge, born Lucien, grew up in Nazi-occupied France and was sent into hiding to avoid being detecting by the Germans. After spending his youth as an artist he moves onto writing music for famous musicians as well as collaborating himself – his most famous being the controversial creepy megahit ‘Je t’aime’.

Gainsbourg looks and feels fabulous. The era and atmosphere of the Parisian art scene are beautifully recreated and Elmosnino plays the part supremely and looks and sounds just right (I’ve done a bit of You Tubing and I-Tuning since too). There is also a series of nice surreal touches that add a cartoony style that makes this different to more straightforward biopics like Walk the Line and Ray.

Gainsbourg’s main fault is that it runs on for a little too long. Throughout his life Serge mainly went through cycles of shagging, smoking and playing and writing music so after ninety minutes of this it begins to get a little repetitive. As a little public service anouncement, if you are thinking of giving up smoking, I would give this movie a miss as Elmosnino smokes that many cigarettes as Gainsbourg, you’d think he would have contracted lung cancer himself.

It's Got: A terrific lead performance, surrealism, smoking and lots of it.

It Needs: To seem like less of a marathon.


Nicely surreal and stylish and a great look at a really influential musician, just a little overlong and repetitous.