Eric Elmosnino in "Gainsbourgh: A Heroic Life."

Music Box Films,

Movie spotlights: 'Gainsbourg,' 'Weekend' and 'Main Street'

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT
  • October 20, 2011 - 3:49 PM


Boy (Tom Cullen) meets boy (Chris New) in a strong English romance so rich with the texture of real life that it feels almost voyeuristic. Neither man was looking for more than a casual hookup, and mild-mannered Cullen doesn't seem like an ideal match for extroverted, aggressive New. Over the course of two days together, talking, having coffee in bed and visiting a carnival, they find that thing every human being is seeking and that life gets fouled up. Indie artlessness is used to strong effect here.

The film is made in a semi-documentary style that makes us feel like anthropologists examining our own tribe. It's a definitive example of naturalistic moviemaking -- you feel you're breathing the air that the characters are breathing.


"Main Street" is a road to nowhere, the final screenplay by the late Horton Foote (an Academy Award winner for "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Tender Mercies"). Foote has been hailed as a modern Chekhov, but this movie is one part "The Cherry Orchard" and two parts nothing. As a drawling Texan hazardous-waste manager, Colin Firth is miscast in a part any one of 200 American actors could do better. He's storing his toxic canisters in disused tobacco warehouses in Durham, N.C., en route to disposal. The rent on those warehouses is all that stands between genteel matron Ellen Burstyn and ruin. With many a "mercy me," she shares her worries with her niece (Patricia Clarkson), and good-ol'-boy cop Orlando Bloom drives by once in a while to see if everything's all right. And that's essentially it. The characters drift past each other, never locking horns. Instead they emit expository dialogue. The script resembles a soap opera designed to teach English as a second language. Every point is made clearly and slowly twice, thrice, six times over. We hear a banker inform Burstyn of a new development on the phone; she hangs up and repeats it to Clarkson verbatim.

There's a tentative, skim-milk attraction between Clarkson and Firth, and another involving Bloom and Amber Heard, playing a girl yearning to move on, but nothing sparks. With diorama staging and repetitive medium and long shots, stage director turned moviemaker John Doyle creates rigor mortis on film.

  • ★ out of four stars
  • Rated: PG for mild thematic elements, language and smoking
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  • Showtimes: view listings


There's a bold idea behind this picaresque biography of French pop star/provocateur Serge Gainsbourg. It's an attempt to show how a cheeky Jewish boy who flaunted his yellow star in Nazi-occupied Paris was inspired and then destroyed by his fantasy of musical stardom. Eric Elmosnino, who plays Gainsbourg with jumpy energy, is shadowed through dozens of scenes by a grotesque alter ego with the beak-like nose and bat ears of an anti-Semitic caricature. This shadow self bosses Gainsbourg around, but also gives him the courage to take a shot at a pop-music career. After his giddy and chaotic days of early success, he becomes an alcoholic provocateur and a disreputable national treasure, his pugnacious charm turning to rot.

Writer/director Joann Sfar, a graphic novelist, has a strong visual sensibility, but writes the story frustratingly. If you only know Gainsbourg as the singer/composer of the orgasmic stateside hit "Je T'aime," you may not be able to navigate among the parade of singers and actresses who tumble through his bedroom (the nudity is so unerotic that it's hard to know why the scenes are there at all). It's the story of a genius with no moral sense and no interests beyond sensuality. The catchy, insinuating music can only carry you so far.

  • ★★ out of four stars.
  • Unrated: nudity and sensuality. In subtitled French
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