Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (2011)


Critic 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.


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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 Bardot (Laetitia Casta), Jane Birkin (Lucy Gordon), and beatnik icon Juliette Gréco (Anna Mouglalis) share the screen with a giant puppet alter-ego: a scary, libidinous bad-boy who personifies all of Gainsbourg's worst proclivities. -- (C) Music Box Films

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Eric Elmosnino
as Serge Gainsbourg
Lucy Gordon
as Jane Birkin
Laetitia Casta
as Brigitte Bardot
Doug Jones
as La Gueule
Anna Mouglalis
as Juliette Greco
Sara Forestier
as France Gall
Kacey Mottet Klein
as Lucien Ginsburg
Razvan Vasilescu
as Joseph Ginsburg
Claude Chabrol
as Music Producer
Philippe Duquesne
as Lucky Sarcelles
Deborah Grall
as Elisabeth
Joann Sfar
as Georges Brassens
Chloé Dumas
as Natalie Wood
Ophélia Kolb
as The Model
François Morel
as Headmaster
Angelo Debarre
as Gypsy Guitarist
Le Quatuor
as Les Frères Jacques
Roger Mollien
as France Gall's Father
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News & Interviews for Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

Critic Reviews for Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

All Critics (82) | Top Critics (24)

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

Dec 9, 2011 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

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

Nov 16, 2011 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

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

Nov 10, 2011 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

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

Nov 4, 2011 | Full Review…

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

Oct 27, 2011 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

For better and for worse, Sfar's a fan, and his movie is a busy love letter to Gainsbourg that skates along the surface of the legend.

Oct 27, 2011 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life


This charming biopic about Serge Gainsbourg is definitely not special, 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
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

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
Greg S

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
Conner Rainwater

Super Reviewer


Very interesting untold true story of famous French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg as well as this is based on the graphic novel by the French writer-director of the film, Joann Sfar. The Gallic equivalent of Frank Sinatra, Noel Coward and Shane MacGowan, Serge Gainsbourg was unique who redefined '60 and '70s national culture. It's incredible, then, what Sfar, a French comic-book artist, has managed to capture here. Eric Elmosnino miraculously nails Gainsbourg's louche, lupine suavity and beguiling vulnerability, and scenes of the composer's early life - a Fellini-esque fairytale where he's tutored by his vampiric puppet alter-ego, La Guele - are truly powerful. Inexplicably, the second hour lurches into rock biopic cliches - drugs, bad wigs, and the cheesy recreation of the hit composition.

Dean McKenna
Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer

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