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Review: Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

The life of Serge Gainsbourg
By BETSY SHERMAN  |  October 25, 2011
3.5 3.5 Stars



No, they did not make up the part where he loses his virginity on Salvador Dalí's living room floor. Such was the life of Serge Gainsbourg (born Lucien Ginsburg), the Parisian singer-songwriter known for his troll-as-hipster look and the scandals he provoked (e.g., the simulated orgasm in "Je t'aime, moi non plus," recorded first with Brigitte Bardot, then with Jane Birkin). In this tour de force biopic, cartoonist-filmmaker Joann Sfar uses darkly comic fairy tale elements to illustrate Gainsbourg's creative process. The Jewish boy branded with a yellow star, who had seen himself portrayed as ogre, later embraced that monster (made manifest in the movie) in order to reflect it back to the mainstream. Eric Elmosnino gives a deft and moving performance as the insecure piano player who reinvents himself as Gainsbourg, pop poet and improbable ladies' man, impelled to break taboos not only out of anger, but also to affirm his own existence.

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