Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

Promotional poster
Directed by Joann Sfar
Produced by
Written by Joann Sfar
Starring Eric Elmosnino
Lucy Gordon
Laetitia Casta
Doug Jones
Mylène Jampanoï
Anna Mouglalis
Yolande Moreau
Sara Forestier
Philippe Katerine
Claude Chabrol
Music by Olivier Daviaud
Cinematography Guillaume Schiffman
Edited by Maryline Monthieux
Distributed by Universal Pictures (France)
Optimum Releasing (UK)
Release dates
  • 20 January 2010 (2010-01-20) (France)
  • 30 July 2010 (2010-07-30) (United Kingdom)
Running time
130 minutes[1]
  • France
  • United Kingdom
Language French
Budget $14 million
Box office $19.4 million[2]

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (original title: Gainsbourg (Vie héroïque)) is a 2010 French drama film written and directed by Joann Sfar. It is a biopic of French singer Serge Gainsbourg.


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 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.


Actor Role
Eric Elmosnino Serge Gainsbourg
Lucy Gordon Jane Birkin
Laetitia Casta Brigitte Bardot
Doug Jones La Gueule (Gainsbourg's mug)
Deborah Grall Lise Levitzky
Mylène Jampanoï Bambou (Caroline von Paulus)
Anna Mouglalis Juliette Gréco
Yolande Moreau Fréhel
Sara Forestier France Gall
Philippe Katerine Boris Vian
Philippe Duquesne Lucky Sarcelles
François Morel The Boarding's Director
Claude Chabrol Gainsbourg's Music Producer
Ophélia Kolb The Model
Kacey Mottet Klein young Serge Gainsbourg (Lucien Ginsburg)


Critical response

The film received mixed reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 73% of 78 critics gave the film a positive review, for an average rating of 6.2/10. The site's consensus reads, "It might be thinly written and messily made, but Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is also appropriately glamorous and intense -- and powerfully led by a gripping performance from Erik Elmosnino.".[5] Metacritic gave the film a score of 58 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[6]

Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times enjoyed the film:

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.[7]

Other critics had alternative opinions, such as A.O. Scott of The New York Times:

[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.[8]


The film was awarded 3 César Awards on 25 February 2011 including a César Award for Best Actor for Eric Elmosnino, a César Award for Best First Feature Film for Joann Sfar and César Award for Best Sound. It also received an additional 8 nominations.

Award / Film Festival Category Recipients and nominees Result
Cabourg Film Festival Swann d'Or for Best Actor Éric Elmosnino Won
César Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Actor Éric Elmosnino Won
Best Supporting Actress Laetitia Casta Nominated
Best First Feature Film Won
Best Cinematography Guillaume Schiffman Nominated
Best Editing Marilyne Monthieux Nominated
Best Sound Daniel Sobrino, Jean Goudier and Cyril Holtz Won
Best Production Design Christian Marti Nominated
Globes de Cristal Award Best Actor Éric Elmosnino Nominated
Lumières Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Director Joann Sfar Nominated
Best Actor Éric Elmosnino Nominated
Magritte Awards Best Supporting Actress Yolande Moreau Nominated
Tribeca Film Festival Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film Éric Elmosnino Won


  1. Roger Ebert (4 December 2012). Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2013: 25th Anniversary Edition. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 191. ISBN 978-1-4494-2344-5. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  2. "Gainsbourg (vie héroïque) (2010)". JP Box Office. Retrieved 2010-01-20.
  3. "Lucy Gordon, Actress, Dead in Apparent Suicide". 2009-05-21. Retrieved 2010-07-26.
  4. Samuel, Henry (2009-05-21). "British actress Lucy Gordon found dead in Paris flat". Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-07-26.
  5. "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-07-22.
  6. "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2015-07-22.
  7. Turan, Kenneth (2011-09-02). "'Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life': movie review". Retrieved 2011-09-07.
  8. A. O. Scott (2011-08-30). "'Gainsbourg - A Heroic Life,' by Joann Sfar - Review -". Retrieved 2011-09-07.

External links

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