Tonight, one day ahead of its commercial release in my area (Miami), the University of Miami’s Cosford Cinema will host a preview screening of Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, a film focused on one of France’s most influential modern musicians: Serge Gainsbourg. I did not have an opportunity to watch a preview screener in time to review the film due to a mailing issue, but I was delighted to learn— as with Mozart’s Sister— the Cosford is making a special event out of this film. One day before its official debut, the university art house will host a special screening with an introduction by Lauren “Lolo” Reskin, the owner of Sweat Records and a long-time local DJ (since the age of 16, as an unpaid volunteer at Miami-Dade College’s campus radio station WDGR).
So I called her up to talk Gainsbourg, whose music would gain worldwide notoriety only just after his death in 1991. She said she first heard Gainsbourg’s music, about five years after that, once buzz had built up during the “lounge” scene of the early to mid nineties, which celebrated Gainsbourg among other sixties-era pop pioneers who were just ahead of their time. “I was in high school,” she said via phone. “I was either a sophomore or a junior. I was volunteering at Miami-Dade’s radio station, WDJR. It was around the time Philips had released Du Jazz Dans De Ravin, Comic Strip and Couleur Café. There was a sampler that had three tracks from each album, and I was just hooked, and I knew it influenced a lot of stuff I liked like Stereolab, Broadcast and I think Air was starting to release stuff around then.”
During the brief telephone conversation, the self-described “music nerd” revealed an understanding of the wide-ranging influence of Gainsbourg, and already showed an eagerness to share her love for this talent. “I’m not an artist myself, but clearly his legacy is going to live on forever in music,” Reskin said. “Everyone from Beck to Bowie has cited him as an influence. For me, he’s just a really important figure.”
As the resident DJ at the local Miami hipster club Vagabond and music store owner, it makes sense that Reskin understands the flow of musical influence. But her sense of high regard for Gainsbourg lies no further than the façade that decorates her shop in North Miami. “Sweat got him on wall. We sell his stuff regularly,” she said. “Fans of his are still coming in, and they are surprised to see him there— in Miami.”
So, of course, Reskin is excited about introducing this movie, which, according to what I have read, is something more than a biopic. It is the feature debut of famed French comic book artist Joann Sfar. In the press notes, he notes that he moved to Paris from his native Nice with the desire to work with Gainsbourg on a graphic novel based on one of Gainsbourg’s novels. Just after making the move, Gainsbourg died of a heart attack. Though that working relationship never happened, Sfar notes Gainsbourg (who first aspired to be a painter before falling back on his talents as a musician) had an unshakable influence in the stories of his comic books, including, he notes, the Rabbi’s Cat, Pascin and Klezmer. Expect some surreal, artistic leaps away from the mortal realm and into something much more expressionistic. “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is not a historical or anecdotal film,” Sfar notes in his statement. “It aspires to recount a modern myth because the figure of Gainsbourg is radically modern … I wanted to create something more like a Russian fable, a modern legend.”
Starring at the center of the movie is Eric Elmosnino who won a best actor César in France last year for his portrayal of the master. During the film’s festival run that same year, he also captured the best actor award at the Tribeca Film Festival. Besides the accolades, still images also prove Elmosnino has an uncanny resemblance to exploit, a quality both Reskin and agreed upon.
Reskin also echoes my own feelings of high hopes for such a film. “I have not seen the film yet, so I hope [the director] does justice to the multi-facted life he had. He painted, he produced other artists, and his love life, with Bardot and Birkin, is a huge facet of his life.”
Finally, here’s a look at the trailer:
Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life has not been rated and premieres in South Florida Thursday, Nov. 3, at 7:30pm at UM’s Cosford Cinema in Coral Gables featuring a special introduction by Lauren “Lolo” Reskin and followed by a post-screening reception celebrating Gainsbourg’s legacy and music after the film. The film continues a screening run until Nov. 6 and also opens Friday, Nov. 4, at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, at 6 p.m. and plays through Nov. 9. Both are digital presentations.