Paris : the must-see places of Gainsbourg, heroic life
Serge Gainsbourg’s home
Serge Gainsbourg (Eric Elmosnino) lived happy days with Jane Birkin (Lucy Gordon) in their house on rue de Verneuil where they liked to sing “Le Canari sur le balcon” (The Canary on the balcony). It was in 1967, during his three month idyll with Brigitte Bardot that the singer bought this residence that he liked to call his “private mansion”. He lived here until the end of his days in 1991. Since, his daughter Charlotte Gainsburg hasn’t changed the inside that her father had decorated. Everything is in place as if the singer still lived there. For a while a museum project was being considered. On the outside wall, fans from all over the world continue to pay homage to this immense artist.
As we mention in our guide Paris of 1000 cult movies, series, musics, comics and novels locations, even though it’s stretching reality a bit, Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin meet in this superb restaurant in the film. The director took some liberties with the true story of the couple in order to offer a setting corresponding to his vision of the two characters.
During his epic journey to Jamaica, in 1979 Serge records a reggae version of the French national anthem, the Marseillaise, called Aux Armes et caetera (To Arms et cetera). The recording session in the Dynamic Sounds studio in Kingston was actually filmed in the Ferber Studios in Paris. The same one where Gainsbourg recorded his movie sound tracks and numerous other artistic works. Since their opening in 1973, the Ferber Studios have never stopped welcoming top French and international artists. The album with the same name as the song was the first golden record in the singer’s career. But the song brought on a sharp controversy, certain conservatives and military personnel found it unacceptable that the national anthem be modified in such a way. Gainsbourg clarified that he had wanted to adapt the Marseillaise but he didn’t know all the words. So he opened a dictionary, but as the title was too long, he wrote Aux Armes et caetera, thus giving him the idea for the title. Two years later, for a sum of 135,000 francs, he bought one of the two original manuscripts of the anthem by Rouget de Lisle. The composer really had written as of the second refrain, Aux Armes, Citoyens! Etc.. What an incredible outcome!
École des Beaux-Arts – Fine Arts School
After his academic failure at the Condorcet lycée, Serge Gainsbourg registered at the Beaux Arts (Fine Arts school). In fact, it’s in this establishment that he meets Bambou (Mylène Jampanoï), his future girlfriend. In reality, number 13 where this scene was filmed is home to the exposition gallery of the Beaux Arts school.
Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg kiss for the first time on this quay while taking a walk. Now a port for docking residential barges, the Montebello port used to be a dock for unloading cargo barges. A scene from the Woody Allen film Everyone Says I Love You also takes place here.
Cité Internationale des Arts
Serge Gainsbourg gets a surprise visit from Brigitte Bardot (Laetitia Casta). After his second divorce, the singer lived in 1966 and 1977 in a student residence room on the fifth floor of the Cité Internationale des Arts. This establishment regularly welcomes artists worldwide for short stays in the capital going from 2 months to 1 year. There are 315 studio apartments on two sites, one in the Marais area and the other at Montmartre.
His parents’ home
When his father dies in the living room, Serge Gainsbourg leaves the building in tears. He lies down in the street and waits for a taxi, just as Boris Vian had taught him a bit earlier. Jane finds him lying there and begs him to get up, assisted by policemen who were in the vicinity. The rue Bude is in the heart of the Ile Saint-Louis, one of the two natural islands in the Seine in Paris, as the Ile aux Cynes (Swan Island) was artificially created.
The music producer Jean-Claude Desmarty (Claude Chabrol) listens attentively to the new song by Serge, Je t’aime…moi non plus (I love you…me neither). The scene in his Philips office was filmed at the Communist Party headquarters. Classed as a historical monument, the building is the work of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. With the surprising curves of the building, the artist was wanting to evoke a flag flapping with the wind. It was built in 1971 but the work on the esplanade; the cupola and the underground chamber were not completed till 1980.
Out walking during the night, Serge and Jane go down the stairs in the rue Malebranche and Serge almost gets hit by a car, saved at the last second by Jane. This street has been the setting for numerous film shootings such Love in the Afternoon with Audrey Hepburn.
At the bottom of the steps leading to Sacré-Cœur and the interesection with rue Ronsard, Serge Gainsbourg and Boris Vian (Philippe Katerine) lie down in the middle of the street to wait for a taxi. This scene was filmed in a live setting.