Leticia. Laeticia. Letizia. Leticia. Leaticia. Over the course of seven years in the United States, I’ve seen my name spelled all sorts of funny ways. Back in my home country of France, everyone and their mothers, or should I say mamans, knows that my name is spelled: L-Æ-T-I-T-I-A thanks to a little song that made my first name popular again.
Serge Gainsbourg was a charismatic and talented French singer-songwriter, actor and director whose legacy on French music is unrivaled. He has been dead for 20 years now, but the legacy of his music (and tumultuous life) lives on… This life, which included scandals, love affairs with French leading ladies like Brigitte Bardot (portrayed by another Laetitia…), and lots of chain-smoking and heavy-drinking, was the subject of a 2010 film: Gainsbourg (Vie Héroïque). DC audiences can get a glimpse into Gainsbare’s complex personality thanks to a May 12 screening organized by l’Alliance Française at the Letelier Theater in Georgetown.
The movie, which recently received the French equivalent of an Oscar for Best Motion Picture of the Year, is the brainchild of Joaan Sfar, a French animator, and is based on Sfar’s own graphic novel about the life of Serge Gainsbourg. Throughout the film, Sfar emphasizes Gainsbourg’s tormented self image, his tortured relationship with his tête de chou, his ugly mug, as well as with his faith. A series of episodes, straight out of a comic book, interrupt the story. Animated sequences pop up throughout to illustrate Gainsbourg’s struggles with his inner demons, symbolized by a hallucinatory life-sized puppet doppelganger. In my opinion, the movie would have been better without those, but is saved by the breakthrough performance from Eric Elmosnino. The young actor brings Gainsbourg, a myth, a legend, someone larger than life figure, into a relatable figure, that audiences, French or not, can relate to.
Letelier Theater is located at 3251 Prospect Street, NW, Upper courtyard; the screening (in French with English subtitles) will take place Thursday, May 12 2011 at 7:00PM; $ 4.00 for Alliance Française members, $ 9.00 admission.