Comic Book Biopic
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Having been a comic book publisher, I’m always pleased to see this art form get recognized as more than lowbrow entertainment. It isn’t just about superheroes.
Case in point: Joann Sfar is a creator of graphic novels (what Frank Miller called “fat comic books”). Now Sfar brings one of his works to the screen, an inventive biography of French singer Serge Gainsbourg.
“Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life” is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
Sfar is considered one the most important artists of the new wave of Franco-Belgian comics. You can see the comic book roots in his fanciful style of filmmaking – realism blended with fantasy artwork and animation. A potato-shaped figure on a poster comes to life and chases our young hero down the streets of Paris. A long-nosed puppet version of himself steps into the story as an alter ego.
The film won the French artist-turned-director a César Award for Best Debut.
Sfar’s comics are often inspired by his Jewish heritage. And he claims to be a “fanatic” for the work of infamous singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg (who was born as Lucien Ginsburg to Russian-Jewish parents).
This film follows Gainsbourg from his boyhood in Nazi-occupied Paris (where he proudly wears his Jewish star ID) to his adulthood as a painter, jazz musician, and pop superstar in the ‘60s (where the cheeky beak-nosed musician marries or woos Juliet Greco, Brigitte Bardot, and Jane Birkin).
Eric Elmosnino (“Ribet”) won a César Award for Best Actor playing Gainsbourg in this film. Ironically, he’s mainly worked in the theater.
Anna Mouglalis (“Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky”) steps in as Bohemian singer-actress Juliette Gréco. Supermodel Laetitia Casta (“Arbitrage”) takes on the role of sex goddess Brigitte Bardot. And the late Lucy Gordon (“Spider-Man 3”) is cast as British actress Jane Birkin.
The soundtrack will bring back memories of the ‘60s. Yes, the film also won a César for Best Sound.
The songwriter’s life is described as heroic because “he lived deeply in his own imagination and did continual battle with the personal demons.”
“He was the only French singer with an attitude,” observes Joann Sfar. “When you turned on TV in France in the 1970s, he was the only guy who would refer to sex and alcohol and the meaningless life, so it was very appealing. He was the guy who makes you feel that it would be cool to be an adult.”
How accurate is this biography? “I prefer his lies to his truth, his dreams to his reality,” says Sfar. It’s easy to see why.
[from Solares Hill]
[from Solares Hill]