Combustible Celluloid
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With: Eric Elmosnino, Lucy Gordon, Laetitia Casta, Doug Jones, Anna Mouglalis, Mylène Jampanoï, Sara Forestier, Kacey Mottet Klein, Razvan Vasilescu
Written by: Joann Sfar, based on his graphic novel
Directed by: Joann Sfar
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 130
Date: 01/20/2010

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Bonnie and Clod

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Actors and awards committees love biopics, but filmmakers seem to have grown increasingly wary of the genre, looking for different and fresh angles. Joann Sfar's new biopic Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life finds one that's different, but not so fresh.

It tells the story of Serge Gainsbourg (Eric Elmosnino), who began his career as a painter, and then veered into one as a successful songwriter and part-time singer. He became known as a lover of Brigitte Bardot (Laetitia Casta) and husband of Jane Birkin (Lucy Gordon) and recorded memorable songs with both: The different angle here is that the material comes from a graphic novel, and that Gainsbourg is sometimes visited by his "mug," or a giant foam puppet of himself. The puppet first appears as a huge head (with protruding ears and crooked nose), and then later as a more spindly creature in a tuxedo. This idea barely works at all, and the rest of the movie follows the standard biopic formula: Gainsbourg becomes increasingly, physically wrecked as his success increases, and minor characters flit in and out of his life without ever leaving much of an imprint.

I had been looking forward to seeing Casta as Bardot, and she's wonderful, but all too briefly. Overall, the film makes a common mistake: it tells what happened to Gainsbourg, but not who he really was.

Best Buy Co, Inc.