Serge Gainsbourg, d'autres nouvelles des étoiles
[Serge Gainsbourg: Some Other News from the Stars]

Directed by Serge Gainsbourg, Jean-Christophe Averty, and more


"Such extraordinary songs of such extraordinary depth. ... People will discover Apollinaire. Serge is as great as Apollinaire. ... [Serge's songs are] as great as Walt Whitman. ... He carries on the rhyme to the next line like Cole Porter. In fact -- 'I get no kick from champagne flying too high in the sky with some guy is my idea of nothing to do' -- is very very similar. If you could also put [in some] sentiment and also put in some sexuality -- which would probably bring us more like Nabokov's Lolita. Because if you listen to Dolores and that poetry that was written in Lolita, then it's very very like Marilou who plays with herself with the cigarette which is menthol in The Man with the Cabbage-Head [the 1975 album L'Homme à tête de chou]. I mean, he's written such great things, such sexual things, very like Apollinaire. He was left by women like Apollinaire. He went on loving them like the poem 'Ma Lou', like Apollinaire. He was brave like Apollinaire. Apollinaire got a bullet in his head in the First World War. Well, Serge nearly got a bullet through the heart by the National Front when he sang the Marseillaise, and he sang it standing in front of them, boldly."

—Jane Birkin, 2003, in conversation with Ed Grant on Media Funhouse (full episode viewable HERE)

 DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Universal (2-disc) - Region 0 - PAL

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Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 0 - PAL
Runtime 4:45:00 (across two discs) 
Video Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 non-anamorphic
Average Bitrate: ? mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
Audio French (Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS)
Subtitles English (on interview portions only)

Release Information:
Studio: Universal Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 non-anamorphic

Edition Details:

• -Two booklets (8 and 4 pages in length, in French) containing a biographical timeline of Gainsbourg's life and production credits on each of the clips, films, and television segments included.

DVD Release Date: April 25th, 2005
Digipak x 2 within a glossy heavy-stock cardboard slip-case
Chapters: 44 (Disc 1) and 44 (Disc 2)




This release provides a glimpse of Gainsbourg's professional life from the period spanning 1958 to two years before his death in 1991. Many of the contents overlap with the (now out-of-print?) De Gainsbourg à Gainsbarre release (the title translates as From Gainsbourg to Gainsbarre, a reference to the alter-ego developed on his 1981 record Mauvaises nouvelles des étoiles -- Bad News from the Stars -- referenced by the title of this DVD), but everything has now been cleaned up as much as was possible given the varying states of the film and video sources included here. The quality is good overall, image is quite consistent (often lovingly un-restored), sound is superb. The "I said, I want to fuck her" Whitney Houston clip has not been collected here. It can be found rather easily on the Web, albeit sans Dolby 5.1.

The set is phenomenal, and was my choice for the best DVD release of 2005. Unfortunate that no subtitles have been included for any of the nearly four hours' worth of music in this release? Unsurprising. First off, the publishing rights would have had to have been cleared for the on-screen textual representation of around 70 songs. Secondly, Universal Music surely could not have been trusted to "translate" Gainsbourg's lyrics any more than one might trust, say, Hugh Laurie to render Pale Fire into French. Indeed, so hexed, cross-indexed, mind-expandingly and constellatorily super-helical are SG's lines that anyone who is relatively proficient in the language and relatively familiar with (and, necessarily, in awe of) Gainsbourg's lyrics has already been felled dead by the murderous horror that is the recent English-language Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited tribute album. Given the resulting decrease in the Earth's population, no additional charity was needed from the Universal/Mercury music concern. All said, no subs on the songs is a pretty blessed thing. (I encourage anyone who is interested in precise, footnoted translations -- in which no liberties have been taken -- of the Gainsbourg songbook -- in which liberty has been taken and its neck wrung -- to email me privately HERE).

So this is extra-special. The interviews, subtitled, are marvelous. They are hard-edged and unsentimental. All sorts of challenges lie implicit in SG's responses, which nevertheless are delivered with a wry and tender humility, born of an expansive faith in his audience's capacity for meeting him half-way. In other words, Gainsbourg and his art were inseparable. When he sings "Je suis venu te dire que je m'en vais" (I've Come to Tell You I'm Leaving) on Taratata in 1973, there is no frowning, no tearful play-acting or cheap theatrics; there's only the straight story delivered with a gaze like gentle poison: "You remember old days and you weep. / You choke up, you go pale now that the hour's sounded. / Goodbye forever -- / Yes, I'm sorry to tell you that I'm leaving. / Yes, I loved you, yes, but........" [my translation] Elsewhere, we get Gainsbourg in duet with Bardot, Karina, Birkin, Deneuve, Gall, Darc, Mitchell and Dutronc; Gainsbourg on the ephemerality of pigments and the prohibitive cost of oil-paints; Gainsbourg, drunk, on the beauty of Cooper's and Schoedsack's King Kong and the murderous quality of color in the cinema ("It shits all over the place"). We also get the Gainsbourg-directed clip for his 1984 single "Lemon Incest", starring the 13-year-old Charlotte Gainsbourg, and the trailer for his 1986 feature Charlotte for ever, both of which bring to mind the phrase "only in France", and stir up longings for the entire SG film oeuvre to be released at last on DVD with English subtitles. (It must be noted however that a very fine edition of Gainsbourg's superb 1975 film Je t'aime moi non plus [I Love You I Don't] without any subtitles at all has been released on DVD in the Les Introuvables series.) The footage reproduced here from the late-'80s concerts is unfortunate, but it comes to us simply as the document of a breakdown, of a self-sabotage. From which he surely would have recovered, had he not died beforehand.

This greatest of songwriters -- a man who deserves to be counted among the greatest of all the twentieth-century's artists -- remade the universe over and over again. There are no Plutos in his oeuvre, and as such I can't give Universal's nearly 5-hour-long release anything other than cinqs étoiles des étoiles.
out of .

Craig Keller


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Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 0 - PAL



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