Debut pic from writer/graphic artist Joann Sfar is an imaginative, highly stylized bio-pic of French songster/ artistic gadfly/provocateur/ womanizer Serge Gainsbourg. (So far, Sfar has followed up with THE RABBI’S CAT, an animated feature of his own novel.) Gainsbourg, at least as portrayed here, lived less the heroic life promised by the film’s title than a toxically adventurous one, loaded with dramatic incident right from his start as a funny-looking Jewish kid/musical prodigy during the Nazi Occupation. A tantalizing mixture of grit, sexual confidence & self-loathing, strikingly realized as a kid by Kacey Mottet Klein and later by Eric Elmosnino, Sfar freshens the usual bio-pic tropes with graphic flourishes and a puppet-like doppelgänger Gainsbourg can’t quite move past . . . if in fact he wants to. But something goes terribly wrong with the second half of the film. It’s not so much that Gainsbourg’s story loses interest & empathy as he begins grazing thru a series affairs with stars like Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot & Juliette Gréco, or even distaste at his increasing dissipation. More likely, it’s the essential banality of French Pop, an acquired taste at best. All those toneless, whispering ingenues just don’t seem worth the effort.
DOUBLE-BILL: Try pairing this with another stylish failure, Kevin Spacey’s BEYOND THE SEA/’04, a near-vanity project on Pop singer/actor Bobby Darin.