Directed by Joann Sfar
Cornerhouse, 1 August 2010
Close to perfection: a film that engages the heart, the intellect and the senses.
This film presents the life of Serge Gainsbourg as an eventful tragedy: sad and bad things happen but there’s always a diversion, a new game in town, and our hero moves on.
The presence of Boris Vian (Philippe Katerine) in the film was surprising; I was unaware that Gainsbourg and the eminent ‘pataphysician were friends. It caused me to wonder, also, whether Gainsbourg and Georges Perec, another young writer who’d taken inspiration and encouragement from Queneau, had ever met. Apparently, they never did. Jane Birkin did meet Perec in a London restaurant, though, and she told the author of Life: A User’s Manual that he reminded her of a character in a comic book she’d read as a child. This film was adapted by Joann Sfar from his own comic about the singer.
Eric Elmosnino gives an outstanding performance in the lead role and he certainly looks the part, of that there’s no doubt. A little bit more on the intersection where Jewish and French identity meet and cohere would have been welcome (Perec wrote W, a memoir of a Nazi-infested childhood not unlike Gainsbourg’s own) but there’s a terrific version of the French national anthem, which shows what a strange, curious and problematic beast it is. There is enough food for the mind here, and Bardot too. (Or rather a fair facsimile in the delectable form of Laetitia Casta.)