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Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (2011)


Average Rating: 6.2/10
Reviews Counted: 78
Fresh: 57 | Rotten: 21

Critics Consensus: It might be thinly written and messily made, but Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is also appropriately glamorous and intense -- and powerfully led by a gripping performance from Erik Elmosnino.

Average Rating: 5.8/10
Critic Reviews: 25
Fresh: 14 | Rotten: 11

Critics Consensus: It might be thinly written and messily made, but Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is also appropriately glamorous and intense -- and powerfully led by a gripping performance from Erik Elmosnino.


Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 16,490


Movie Info

Comic book artist Joann Sfar interprets the life of '60s pop star Serge Gainsbourg (Eric Elmosnino),1921-1991, beginning with his childhood years in Nazi-occupied Paris, through his early years as a painter and jazz musician (brushing shoulders with Boris Vian), to his life as a wildly popular singer-songwriter, notorious bon vivant, and lover of some of the world's most glamorous women. Gainsbourg's two-sided personality (narcissistic and self-loathing) and his over-the-top antics with Brigitte … More

Drama , Musical & Performing Arts , Art House & International
Directed By:
Written By:
Joann Sfar
In Theaters:
Mar 20, 2012
Box Office:
Music Box Films - Official Site



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Critic Reviews for Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

All Critics (78) | Top Critics (25) | Fresh (57) | Rotten (21) | DVD (4)

It's a comic-strip version of one man's life and times, but it's tres cool.

Full Review… | December 9, 2011
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

While the movie's on a roll, it's zesty, engaging and frisky.

Full Review… | November 16, 2011
Time Out
Top Critic

In short, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is a charmer.

Full Review… | November 10, 2011
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

French pop star Serge Gainsbourg was as much iconoclast as icon, so it's fitting that this fanciful biopic is both affectionate and irreverent.

Full Review… | November 4, 2011
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Alas, "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life" loses steam and grows more perfunctory as it wears on.

Full Review… | October 27, 2011
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

It's the story of a genius with no moral sense and no interests beyond sensuality. The catchy, insinuating music can only carry you so far.

Full Review… | October 27, 2011
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

In conjoining Jewish heritage and classic French chanson, Gainsbourg celebrates the hybridity of contemporary French culture, while its combination of realist narrative and poetic animation make it both a touching biopic and an inspired musical.

Full Review… | June 18, 2012
Sight and Sound

I love it when a film surprises me, and "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life" won me over in the very beginning and held me for the full 122 minutes because of its quirky passion and intelligence.

Full Review… | March 17, 2012
Movie Metropolis

A cartoonist who created a graphic novel about Gainsbourg's life and who has now adapted it to the screen. The result is a film that's as playful as its subject matter although not nearly as provocative or complex.

Full Review… | November 18, 2011

Overall, the film makes a common mistake: it tells what happened to Gainsbourg, but not who he really was.

Full Review… | November 18, 2011
Combustible Celluloid

Very nearly as inventive and fascinating as it is frustrating.

Full Review… | November 10, 2011
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Sfar, perhaps understandably, adores the legend of Serge Gainsbourg too much to make the whole nicotine-infused picture anything greater than what it is.

Full Review… | November 4, 2011
Austin Chronicle

Whatever its faults, it's better than Nine.

Full Review… | October 28, 2011
East Bay Express

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.

Full Review… | October 25, 2011
Boston Phoenix

As a musical mischief maker who exuded endless existential ennui, Serge's complexity is just too ungainly for any one biopic - but G:AHL is great starter kit.

Full Review… | September 16, 2011

Gainsbourg is a noble attempt and interesting enough to keep you watching, but it's bound to disappoint fans of the singer's and possibly will confuse any newcomer to the story.

Full Review… | September 16, 2011
Jam! Movies

Audience Reviews for Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

Slightly surrealistic biopic covering the life of a French folk/rock icon, the hard-drinking, hard-smoking Lothario Serge Gainsbourg, with a scary puppet doppelganger on hand representing his inner demons. The experimentalism and some dead-on portrayals of Gainsboug's glamorous lovers---Juliette Greco, Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin---make for a lively tribute to the rakish singer's rebel spirit.

Greg S

Super Reviewer


This charming biopic about Serge Gainsbourg is definitely not amazing, and I really don't know what is so heroic about him, but it is a delight to see how he wrote some of his songs and met the women of his life, in a surreal and stylish depiction of part of his existence.

Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

I could care less about the life of Gainsbourg and this movie really didn't change my mind. It mainly just follows the exact same formula of The Doors, but just with a far less interesting subject. It's almost baffling how they could get away with telling such a mirrored story when I'm sue the two people couldn't have been different. Sometimes this looks like a filmed play, due to the odd lighting and desire to always frame the action in exactly the same way. It also seemed to drag for a ridiculously long time for being just a 2hr movie. I'm not someone who is a die-hard fan of French film-making and this seemed to posses all the traits I don't care for. The necessity for imaginary puppets, goofy narrative breaks and oddly paced scenes didn't help me enjoy this anymore. The one thing I did happen to enjoy was all the beautiful women, but that's hardly something you can compliment the movie itself for. Eric Elmosnino really doesn't do anything interesting here; he just sort'v mopes his way through the movie and doesn't even become interesting until the very last stretch of Gainsbourg's life. I'm sure there will be people that eat this up and just love this biopic, but I really found it to be pointless and terribly executed.

Conner Rainwater

Super Reviewer


Gainsbourg is a refreshing biopic that skillfully avoids all the usual cliches found in the genres. Maybe it takes someone other than a film director to tackle films like this, personally I think getting someone like Joann Sfar, a well known and much loved graphic artists (who knows a bit about Gainsbourg) was a brilliant decision. It is both visually stimulating and beautifully shot, I would argue that you wouldn't need to know anything about Gainsbourg before watching this film, but that said, fans need not worry, the mix of fact and myth suits the legend of Gainsbourg perfectly.There will undoubtedly be things you didn't know about Gainsbourg but all the more interesting 'Half-truths' are all accounted for and the film is all the better for it. Personally I loved it, it's the best biopic I've seen for a very long time and I thoroughly recommend it!

Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life Quotes

Serge Gainsbourg: [spoken to Jane] I'm trying to resist my desire to kiss you.
– Submitted by George B (2 years ago)
Serge Gainsbourg: [singing] We were in love. As long as the song lasted.
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
Serge Gainsbourg: No, it's pretty when you cry.
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)

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