Thursday, April 29, 2010

SFIFF: Gainsbourg (Je t' non plus)

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

Things were a little tense before the screening of Gainsbourg (Je t' non plus). Since I got to the Kabuki early, and was starving, I decided to partake in the Balcony Bar and get some overpriced food and booze before the showing. Luckily, the screening was in theater one, and I love to sit in the balcony, so I could just bring in my drink if I wasn't finished when it began, and get drunk during the movie. Perfect!

There were other people up there with the same idea, and when ticket takers appeared at the opening of the balcony, the assumption was, seating was beginning. But not so fast there, Peter Coyote, who was the first person to try to get into the theater. He was told seating was not beginning yet, and in fact, the first people to be let in would be those who were "Press A." What is "Press A" you ask? Not me, that's for sure, since I was also denied entry. I am not sure if Peter Coyote is a member of "Press A," or if he was finally recognized by one of the ushers, but he was eventually allowed to enter, and soon, those lowly normal ticket holders began to line up, only to be told the real line was outside.

Now, I know technically it's not fair if people who are eating in the Balcony Bar are let in before those who were waiting in line, but really, wouldn't the Kabuki prefer to get as much money out of people as possible? So shouldn't those up there spending 30 bucks on a quesadilla and a cocktail be given a little slack? (On non-festival nights this whole thing is avoided because when you get a ticket, you reserve a seat. But SFIFF showings are a cutthroat first come first seated operation.)

So, those holding cocktails were told to wait until those who waited in line were let in. Which lead to some bitching and moaning and at least one VERY cranky guy who did not appreciate people brushing against his legs as they passed by him to get to a seat.

So, now that I've told you all about the pre-seating show, I should probably get to the important thing: the movie. Except I can't, really. Until the movie is publically released, reviews are forbidden by the SFIFF.

But I can tell you this: the woman who introduced the movie, who was French, made the assumption that Serge Gainsbourg needs no introduction since everyone already knows who his is. I wonder about that. I think he is well-known by the French, people who were into pop music during the mid to late late 60s, and hipsters.

As I am none of those, I only knew a little about him going into the movie, mainly because more than one person has played me some of the songs he did with Brigitte Bardot. So, in case there are some out there who are as uniformed as me, in a nutshell: He was a songwriter and musician who is best known for his collaborations with beautiful young starlets, both in and out of the studio. His longest collaboration was with English model and actress Jane Birkin, and Charlotte Gainsbourg is their daughter.

The movie, which is a straightforward biopic with fantastical elements, was directed by Joann Sfar, who is also a comic book writer, and that graphic novel influence can be felt throughout the movie. The adult Gainsbourg is played by Eric Elmosnino, whose resemblance to the real life Serge is spooky. In fact, the casting of the entire movie is pretty spot on, including Lucy Gordon as Gainsbourg's ultimate muse, Jane Birkin. (Sadly, Gordon committed suicide last year, before the movie was released in France.)

Biopics always seem to have the same issues: If you're a fan of the subject, then you can fill in the blanks. If you don't know much about them, you'll probably find yourself running to the Internet after the movie is over to try and figure out just what you were missing. Let's just say, after Gainsbourg, I was thankful for the existence of Wikipedia.

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