Film Review: Gainsbourg (Vie héroïque)

Gainsbourg (Vie héroïque) is part biopic, part fantasy, and wholly enjoyable. Whilst Serge Gainsbourg undoubtably had a very interesting life, it is up for debate as to how much emotional attachment the audience will feel to the film.

Brought up as a Jew is wartime Paris, Gainsbourg tells the story of the young Lucien Ginsburg and his transformation into one of France’s most successful artists. Along the way, Gainsbourg achieves great success whilst having liaisons with some very well-known women…

Gainsbourg is a biopic, but not in the traditional sense. Rather than fact-filled, the film floats from sequence to sequence, combining actual event with fantasy and dreams. The fantastic element is most prominent through the frequent appearance of Serge’s alter-ego, Mug; a larger than life character who often tries to lead the protagonist astray.

Director Joann Sfar gets the best out of his actors. Eric Elmosnino is compelling as Gainsbourg, highlighting the singer’s immense talent, as well as his flaws. Anna Mouglalis, Laetitia Casta and the late Lucy Gordon all perform well in their roles as famous stars who enter Gainsbourg’s life.

The soundtrack for the film is excellent, featuring Gainsbourg’s music from various points in his career. Visuals are often sumptuous, offering a dreamlike quality to surroundings. With the lack of factual information (the film jumps decades at times) the sets and costumes give the audience a clear indication of the era of a particular scene.

Whilst Gainsbourg is an interesting character, unlike a typical biopic the film does not easily generate sympathy or admiration for its protagonist. The film depicts Serge Gainsbourg as imaginative and talented, but also incredibly selfish. Thus, there isn’t any strong feeling towards the central character as the film closes, other than one of interest at the remarkable life he has led. Nevertheless, Gainsbourg is an entertaining and well-crafted film.