Saturday, 31 July 2010

REVIEW: Gainsbourg

There's a skeleton in the room. Assonance high five.

A while back I was cruising YouTube looking for interviews with film directors, you know in between budding Crystal Meth hits and trawling for bitches, and I came across something that validated a feeling that I had but was way too cowardly to express. It was an interview with Quentin Tarantino talking about from all the movie genres, his least favorite was the biopic. The interviewer seemed pretty bemused and the debate went on for about ten minutes, but I relate to the idea very much. On the surface it seems silly, because biopics are the ones that win all the big actors their Oscars and reap joyous reviews from a bevy of intellectual publications, perhaps because a lot of their respect is earned by our exterior knowledge of whoever or whatever their subject matter is, so because of that they don't stand on their own. They demand respect, they demand politeness, but I doubt I'll be ever be able to fall in love with a biopic because as works of cinema, there's just something missing. Too bound by reality to succeed like a drama can, yet too bound by dramatic convention to be as fascinating as a documentary can, and just instead seem to focus on giving actors showreel moments.

Which brings me to Gainsbourg, and the fact that the problem hasn't gone away. The film showed some desire to mix things up a bit perhaps, but as always with these things, a famous subject doesn't always translate to an interesting subject and through the fault of reality ends up following that weary musician's biopic template, where they go from discovering their art, to succeeding in their art, to being with women to using some kind of intoxicant which drives everyone away until they somehow redeem themselves at the end. It could be Ray, it could be Walk The Line, just with a bit of throwback to the french new wave thrown in there for good measure. In the first half this is more blatant, with the film trying to focus a bit more on Gainsbourg's character then his accomplishments, and a intermittently interesting voice in his character played by awesome mime artist Doug Jones, who so terrifically played Pan in Pan's Labyrinth. But then it degenerated into a checklist of the famous songs he wrote and women he banged, and the film stopped being about the character of Gainsbourg and more about his music the lifestyle of the times. I get that's what people want but when its made up of impressions rather then performances and ciphers rather then characters then the world they exist in is such a plastic fabrication I just don't give a shit anymore.

The film's 'frenchness', so to speak, got increasingly intolerable. I don't wish to sound like I'm hear to dent Anglo-French relations, but there's an arrogance to french cinema sometimes, both from a storytelling point of view and an intellectual one. This is certainly the case here, in which characters speak in half-baked existentialism's and everything is so irritatingly self-satisfied. A polar opposite would be La Vie En Rose, which covered not too dissimilar material and made it so much more engaging and fascinating then this. Its a shame, because the first half hour showed the promise of something unique and I want to praise it for trying to be something different, but the less Jones and the accompanying style that came with, was in it the more it degenerated. And by the end I was just flat-out bored. Don't see unless you care passionately about either the French New Wave or the music of Serge Gainsbourg. Then there's probably a lot for you here.

Rating: 5/10

1 comment:

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