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Lucien Ginsburg, a rebellious French Jewish boy with a grotesque imagination, hates playing the piano like his father, a bar professional, and manages to be admitted to Montmartre Academy as a painter, where he befriends an SS officer who helps him survive the occupation. After the war, he chooses to become a performing artist and adopts the stage name Serge Gainsbourg. His unorthodox songs bring him success, even his parents's approval, and lots of lovers, yet his marriages are all utter failures.Written by
Director Joann Sfar spent his boyhood enthralled by the mystique of Serge Gainsbourg. He moved to Paris as an adult expressly to meet his idol but unfortunately Gainsbourg died of a heart attack a month later. See more »
In the 135 minute version of the film a nightclub reveler laughs about Gainsbourg being parodied on 'Guignols de l'info' (a French puppet show in which celebrities are mocked) but in the same scene Gainsbourg meets Bambou for the first time (his last wife). He married Bambou in 1981 but the Guignols were only created in 1988. See more »
England is the first territory to release a new cut of the film, running 14 minutes shorter than the previous version and is Joann Sfar's preferred one. Changes include -
Deletion of the scene where young Serge pleads in vain for his mother to buy him a gun to play with, even attempting to bribe her by saying he'll work harder on the piano. This precedes the scene where he steals the gun from the shop.
Deletion of the scene where Serge and Boris Vian walk to his apartment and the two lie in the road in an effort to stop a cab. While they wait Serge reveals he has a double that follows him around to which Vian replies his is a werewolf. However two policemen soon cut the conversation short. (This precedes Serge arriving at Boris's apartment and explains a later scene where a drunken Serge lies in the road before having the police escort to his concert)
Longer scene of the "Baby Pop" groupies, as Gainsbourg wakes up in bed with two naked women as his Mug joyously tosses bank statements at him revealing how rich he is from "Poupée de cire, poupée de son" alone! This is the original lead in to "Qui Est In Qui Est Out".
The groupies and party to "Qui Est In Qui Est Out" is cut short, removing Serge narrating about "the mouth being the primary sexual organ". His narration reveals the girls in the room he has slept with and how he was with them. It reveals Gainsbourg's occasional cruel streak and precedes the angry neighbor banging on the door.
After Gainsbourg recites La Marseillaise at the press conference, we then see young Serge repeating it and triumphantly raising his fist to the audience.
Deletion of a short exchange in the nightclub when a reveller comments to Gainsbourg about him being parodied on a French TV show. The new version removes these lines either because the show is unknown outside of France or because it doesn't tie in as being the night Gainsbourg met his wife Bambou as that TV show wouldn't air until years later. Sfar has said this new version will be the one further released worldwide.
As an Englishman I didn't have as much of an idea of Serge Gs career as most of the previous critics here, so a lot of this film was pretty educational. However, it wasn't a literal biopic by any means, using the cartoon characters alongside Serge (quite well, I thought) and the latter half of his life (I didn't realise when or whether he'd died until I'd read one of your reviewers!) seemed to tail off into nothing, even more than his increasing physical degradation was suggesting.
I found the emphasis on his sexual groundbreaking and role as a general iconoclast a bit similar to the film "Mesrine" which came out a year or two back - a similar time period was covered in that - masses of smoke and sexism! The actresses playing Jane Birkin and Juliette Greco are good (especially Jane Bs English/French accent) but "Brigitte Bardot" less so, and the scenes with her do go on a bit (although some of the poses are meant to correspond with real Bardot roles like "Et Dieu Crea La Femme" and "La Mepris".
The music fits in well with the film and, surprisingly - with the film making style - the intrusion of early 1960s loud pop, and of reggae, is quite a shock to the system, as it is intended to be, and was at the time. Perhaps I'm missing some of the French references, but in general the milieu Gainsbourg moved in might not be best served by a "straight" biopic with a Nicholas Cage-type performance, but the surrealist cartoons do detract from the picture we get of Serge - and believe me, it's not that easy to like him! I wasn't that keen on the precocious young boy stage of his life either - a bit too "that's the French way boys grow up" all very pre-Simone de Beauvoir.
Anyway shouldn't carp too long - I was glad I saw it and a lot will stay with me, although I'll remember the Django-type guitar playing possibly longer than the (apparently rather few) Gainsbourg songs which graced the soundtrack.
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