Five Great Serge Gainsbourg film soundtracks

A round-up of great film work by the French singer-songwriter

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Five Great Serge Gainsbourg film soundtracks

L’eau à la bouche
Gainsbourg’s first work as a composer for cinema was on this minor New Wave romantic comedy of familial dysfunction, contested wills and lecherous intent. Gainsbourg’s languorous, yet risqué score, which includes the title track, set the bar high for the nihilistic Gainsbourg. The resultant EP album is released by Phillips on vinyl, but is currently available only in compilations.

Les Loups dans la bergerie (The Wolves in the Sheepfold)
Before Michael Haneke and Bruno Dumont, mainland Europeans were making weird-ass psycho-horrors every bit as disturbing, the trouble is they were usually banned from showing anywhere but France. Herve Bromberger’s 1960 road thriller, which throws handicapped children, a car crash, bandits and child hierarchies into the mix, featured an equally perverse soundtrack by Gainsbourg that was again released by Phillips on vinyl and has not been reissued since.

Strip-Tease
Life in a strip-tease club in early 1960s Paris starring Teutonic beauty Nico and friends in various stages of undress. The soundtrack, composed and written by Gainsbourg, is a complete gem and includes chanteuse Juliette Gréco singing the title track, which was released on 7”. Gainsbourg makes an appearance in the film as a club pianist.

Manon 70
1968 version of 18th-century novel and 19th-century Italian opera about an amoral free spirit woman who uses sex to her advantage. Gainsbourg’s jaunty score is all too clearly powered by his then obsession with leading lady Catherine Deneuve.

Élisa
Gainsbourg had been dead almost four years when Jean Becker’s 1995 portrait of teenage criminality starring Vanessa Paradis came out but he still won his one and only Cesar (French Oscar), posthumously, for the work he did on the soundtrack with composers Zbigniew Preisner and Michel Colombier before he died.

Gainsbourg is on selected release from Fri 30 Jul.

Gainsbourg

  • 4 stars
  • 2010
  • France/USA
  • 135 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Joann Sfar
  • Written by: Joann Sfar
  • Cast: Eric Elmosnino, Lucy Gordon, Laetitia Casta, Doug Jones

This depiction of Serge Gainsbourg's life is a humorous, sad and bizarre identity crisis, more enjoyable in its abstract moments than when loitering in traditional biopic territory. While Sfar excels at eccentricity, the movie occasionally falters, particularly in its portrayal of Gainsbourg's less hedonistic times.

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