Sunday, 25 July 2010

Je t'aime... moi non plus.

                                                                photo thanks to:
Friday morning.
Text to Iris:
Would you like to see Gainsbourg on Sunday morning at the Electric?

Text from Iris:
God brilliant finally a reason to live

Sunday morning.
Text from Iris:
J’arrive. Jus sui va au café plant

Text to Iris:
Dix minutes.

Text from Iris:

I love going to the Electric for their Sunday morning screenings. It’s like an extension of one’s own living room, except way more comfortable and posh. John who works there always makes me feel welcome and at home. We stock up on coffee and croissants then settle into the big leather chairs, kick our shoes off and put our feet up on the footstools. “So how are you feeling?” asks Iris. “As if I’ve been trampled by a horse,” I reply. “How big is the scar?” she enquires. “About that big,” I say, holding my hands six inches apart and then indicating a straight line running down my side under my left arm. “Like a zipper,” observes Iris.

Iris tells me about her day as a trainee volunteer with the Friends of Highgate Cemetery. She tagged along on all the tours to learn the history of this famous burial ground. “That must have been interesting” say I. “Not half as interesting as the history they don’t tell you,” says Iris, her eyes ablaze. “Like for instance it fell into decay in the 1960’s and was inhabited by a nasty vampire. By the 1970’s its original owners, the London Cemetery Company, abandoned it completely. The dilapidated necropolis became a top spot for Satanic worship and at one point the graves were desecrated. Bones were strewn about all over the place and a woman’s corpse was dragged out and staked on the path.”

“Really?” I ask, my eyes wide with horror. “Really,” says Iris with a sombre nod, “And they don’t say a thing about it on the tours.”*

The lights go down and the film begins. Yay, we have two hours of snuggling into our seats, real life being subsumed by a stylish simulacrum of Paris between the 1940’s and 1970’s. And it is stylish. “Now we have to move to Paris and paint all our walls black,” Iris declares, “it just doesn’t work in a London council flat.”

The cast is excellent. Eric Elmosnino as Gainsbourg is convincingly charming, self-pitying and sleazy. Furthermore he looks just like the man. But I’m afraid that I cannot warm to Serge Gainsbourg even though he is a committed smoker and an alcoholic. “What I’ve just seen,” I tell Iris, “is the story of a narcissist who, as a small boy, was rejected by a small girl because he was ugly. He spends his whole life trying to get over the fact that he was born with a large nose by having sex with loads of beautiful women. He then tries to make himself feel like a bigger man by being unkind to them.” As a child, Gainsbourg (then Lucien Ginsburg) is portrayed as funny and clever but by the time he is in his twenties he has become bitter and cruel. Throughout the entire film he is completely self-interested, showing neither love nor empathy for any of his wives, girlfriends or children. Put simply, he is using them to punish and take revenge on all beautiful women everywhere.

“A bit close to the bone for you right now,” says Iris. I suppose so. But then again, Gainsbourg is marginally redeemed by having had a molecule of creative talent.

The French hero-worship Serge Gainsbourg. His songs were mediocre, gaining cachet by virtue of the fact that they were dressed up as poetry. His biggest hit Je t’aime... moi non plus (I love you... neither do I) is, I admit, very funny. Yet it is hardly a love song. Whatever sweetness the song manages to evoke evaporates for me when I learn that he wrote it for one girlfriend (Brigitte Bardot) and then recorded it with his subsequent girlfriend (Jane Birkin). Totally mercenary.

I suspect that Gainsbourg is held in high regard simply because, in France, they do not have the likes of Keith Richard, John Lennon, Dusty Springfield, Ray Davies, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, The Sex Pistols, Ian Curtis, Jarvis Cocker and Amy Winehouse, talents that Britain seems to produce on a regular basis.

*I may have got this all a bit muddled, what with the painkillers and the general anaesthetic. I suggest that you keep up with the latest graveyard news and gossip on Iris’s blog.