I was a happy holder of a day-pass to the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival on Tuesday - thanks T & A! I was super excited to see Gainsbourg, Je T'aime... Moi Non Plus, director Joann Sfar's biopic of the iconic, ultra cool, Gallic singer/songwriter, provocateur, and unlikely ladies man. Sfar, a cartoonist, added some nice imaginative animation and puppetry to the film which was certainly a stunningly stylish spectacle, but unfortunately I felt overall it focused too much on style and too little on substance.
The film glosses over Lucien Ginsburg's (Gainsbourg's given name) childhood during WW2. His father (who's initially a strict disciplinarian and ends up a giddy, celeb-gazing goofball after his son's success) hides his young son at a boarding school in the country, and after one night spent hiding from Nazis in the woods, Gainsbourg is suddenly a grown up, struggling painter in Paris (played by Eric Elmosnino). (Also, the sisters whom the young Gainsbourg illustrated stories for during their childhood are completely forgotten in the film after the first few scenes.) Gainsburg's many lady friends come and go with nary an explanation of who they are until Brigette Bardot (Victoria's Secret model Laetitia Casta) makes her dramatic appearance to Initials BB. Casta is surprisingly a convincing Bardot and their brief affair livens up the story. After Gainsbourg pens Comic Strip, Bonnie and Clyde, and the scandalous Je T'aime... Moi Non Plus for Bardot, her party-pooper husband, Gunter Sachs, puts a stop their relationship. Gainsbourg soon after meets the English starlet Jane Birkin (played by Lucy Gordon who sadly committed suicide shortly after this film was made) and records the legendary song with her and releases it in 1969. The pair marry, have daughter Charlotte, and split due to his over indulgent ways. I always thought the story pretty much ended there, but the film quickly shows an older, grizzled Gainsbourg meeting another young lass, Bambou (Mylene Jampanoi), in a nightclub and the pair having a Serge Jr.
As I said, the film just touches upon aspects of Gainsbourg's life and doesn't delve in too deeply. I doubt it is strong enough to garner Monsieur Gainsburg a new, younger fanbase and think it will leave die-hard Gainsbourg fans unsatisfied and wanting more. Eric Elmosnino's performance is pretty great as he successfully conjures Gainsbourg's coolness and je ne sais quoi - white Repetto jazz shoes and Gauloises and all. His resemblance to the singer in his later years is uncanny. See a video of stills from the film below.
The second film I checked out on Tuesday was Ounie Lecomte's A Brand New Life. Having only read a brief description of the film, I wasn't sure what to expect. Wow! This small, unassuming film totally blew me away! The story is based on real-life experiences the Korean-born, Paris-based director/writer encountered while living in an orphanage as a child and subsequently being adopted by a French family at the age of nine.
The main character Jinhee, played by the absolutely amazing Sae Ron Kim, starts off as a wide-eyed, smiling, singing, happy girl living with her single father. One day he takes her on a long trip and leaves the unsuspecting child behind at an orphanage. Kim is an adorable, little powerhouse who effortlessly conveys her emotions dealing with abandonment, loss, disappointment, sadness, anger, confusion, and fear. I'm not very maternal, but even I wanted to scoop her up and take her home! Jinhee's friends in the orphanage are equally impressive, especially Sookhee (Do Yeon Park) who takes the newcomer under her wing and coquettishly spouts out "hellos" and "thank yous" to potential adoptive parents visiting from the west. Surprisingly, in a refreshing contrast from similar movies, Lecomte's orphanage does not include any "mean girls" or evil nuns. All the girls act like sisters and their no-nonsense house-mother cares for them all like her own.
A Brand New Life features flawless direction and story-telling along with natural, impeccable performances. I definitely plan to see this movie again when it is generally released and highly recommend it to all. Heartbreaking yet hopeful, A Brand New Life is perfection! See trailer below.