Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Week of December 30 to January 5 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann


New this week is GAINSBOURG: A HEROIC LIFE, the life story of Serge Gainsbourg, the legendary French singer, actor, lover and chain-smoker. The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, who had to flee Paris during WWII, he went on to become so revered that President Mitterand eulogized him as “our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire.”

One might call him a French Frank Sinatra in terms of his place in their culture, but his singing style had nothing of the crooner about it. Perhaps his most famous song is Je t'aime... moi non plus (I Love You… Me Neither), that he wrote and recorded during an affair with Brigitte Bardot. He subsequently re-recorded it with a new lover, the English actor-singer Janet Birkin, in a rendition famous for its heavy, allegedly orgasmic, breathing that led to its being banned in many places. (Check out this YouTube at about the 2:30 point - Actor Charlotte Gainsbourg, who has frequently graced the Tropic screens (Melancholia, Antichrist, I’m Not There) was a product of his relationship with Birkin.

The movie takes you deep into French culture, and features Gainsbourg working his charm on everyone from young music students to Bardot, played by Laetitia Casta almost as well as Michelle Williams does Marilyn Monroe. You’ll love the scene where Gainsbourg and Bardot are rehearsing a musical tribute to Bonnie and Clyde.

“He wasn't well-known in America, but French crooner and actor Serge Gainsbourg was like Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra rolled into one unfiltered cigarette. His life story, which encompasses the Holocaust and hippie eras, is worthy of a documentary, but this biopic takes a different approach. It's a comedic dramatization with a looming shadow of the surreal.” (Joe Williams, St. Louis Post Dispatch)

Meanwhile, speaking of Ms. Monroe, I urge you to see My Week With Marilyn. It’s not getting the year-end hype it should, maybe it’s been poorly positioned as the story of a young man’s tryst. That’s only a small part of the film, which is really a story about filmmaking, and about Marilyn’s neurotic but charming personality. I’d rate it as one of the best of the year.

The New Year is starting off as a great one for Special Events. On Monday, January 2, the Tropic’s Classic Movie series resumes with the month-long theme Gotta Dance. The first film is a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers treat, SWING TIME, winner of the Oscar for Best Music and Best Song (“The Way You Look Tonight” by Jerome Kern & Dorothy Fields) The esteemed sponsor of the Classic Series, Ross Claiborne, will be on hand to introduce this one.

Then on Thursday, we’ll proudly welcome Director Terry George to the Carper Stage to kick off the 2012 Visiting Filmmaker Series. He’ll be screening his acclaimed HOTEL RWANDA (triple Oscar and Golden Globe nominations). Mr. George will have an open dialogue with the audience following the movies.

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