Not to be confused with Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, the biopic that played town last October, this French made-for-TV documentary, directed by Didier Varrod and Pascal Forneri, turns out to be a witty and immersive profile of a man (1928–1991) who lived his adult life in public view—onstage, in newspapers, in numerous sultry music videos, and on countless talk shows—yet remained a charming, chain-smoking enigma. To most of his French countrymen, the brilliant pop songwriter and singer Serge Gainsbourg epitomized a freewheeling break from postwar conformity and complacency; to others he was an ungrateful, misogynistic cynic with an unquenchable appetite for gorgeous women and top-shelf alcohol. This doc aspires to unearth the artist's true nature through a chorus of deeply affectionate female voices. Twenty years after Gainsbourg's death, the ladies' man is warmly remembered by ex-lovers Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin, singers Juliette Greco and Vanessa Paradis, and daughter Charlotte. But it's the legend's voice, sometimes smooth, sometimes raspy, concealing as much as it reveals, that pins us to our chair.
Gainsbourg in a typically dissolute state.
Runs Fri., March 23-Sun., March 25 at Northwest Film Forum. Not rated. 105 minutes.