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Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is a 2010 drama film written and directed by Joann Sfar, based on his graphic novel. It is a biopic of French singer Serge Gainsbourg. This was the last film for Lucy Gordon, after her suicide in 2009.
The film follows notorious musician Serge Gainsbourg's exploits from his upbringing in Nazi occupied France through his rise to fame and love affairs with Juliette Gréco, Brigitte Bardot and marriage to Jane Birkin to his later experimentation with reggae in Jamaica. It also incorporates multiple elements of fantasy, most significantly with the character called "The Mug", an animated exaggeration of Gainsbourg that acts as his conscience (or anti-conscience) at crucial moments in Gainsbourg's life. The film also includes many of Gainsbourg's more famous songs, which serve as the soundtrack to the film and often serve as plot elements themselves.
Unconventional, imaginative, nothing if not audacious, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is a portrait of creativity from the inside, a serious yet playful attempt to find an artistic way to tell an emotional truth... the songwriter's life is heroic because he lived deeply in his own imagination and did continual battle with the personal demons who shared that space with him... Screenwriter Sfar's final word on his difficult, fascinating man is "I prefer his lies to his truth," his dreams to his reality. It's not hard to see why.
[M]uch of the best and worst of Gainsbourg— the chat show provocateur and the charismatic performer — can be found on Internet video sites, which makes Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life feel a bit superfluous. Its forays into his private life, including a brief, intense affair with Ms. Bardot and a long, tumultuous relationship with Ms. Birkin, are more dutiful than revelatory. And how can Ms. Casta and Ms. Gordon, both nimble actresses (and quite beautiful), be expected to measure up against real-life goddesses whose images remain ubiquitous and irresistible? The puppets and the music make Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life engaging, but it is also visually hectic and lacks either the dramatic intensity or the arresting insight that might have lifted it out of the pedestrian realm of the admiring biopic.