Dispatches from Tribeca: Serge Gainsbourg, Man of the People

Olivier Dahan, director of La Vie En Rose—the Oscar-winning flick based on the life of Edith Piaf—looks very “French movie director,” so it was fitting that he be seated at the head of the table at a cocktail hour for French films at the Tribeca Film festival on Friday evening. (The L-shaped table was mere feet away from Chelsea Clearview Cinemas, where the first screening of Gainsbourg had just finished.)

A quietly mysterious man wearing an eyebrow ring, numerous bracelets, and rings on most of his fingers, Dahan never takes off his newsboy cap (“I think he ripped of his look from Deee-Lite,” quipped author Mishna Wolff). He was in town for his Tribeca debut, My Own Love Song, which stars Renée Zellweger and Forest Whitaker.

“As a normal person, I’m more into music than cinema as a viewer, as a listener,” he told The Transom. “As I’m developing a movie, I’m always considering what kind of music I could use for it.” His new film features original music by Bob Dylan.

“Boff,” he said, when asked about the soundtrack. But then he came back, with the briefest twinkly of excitement in his eye. “It was a really interesting experience,” he said.

Later, we encountered Eric Elmosnino, star of Gainsbourg, outside, smoking cigarettes in the warm Chelsea evening.

“The people in Paris are so much less charming than in New York,” he said in French. “Café waiters [in Paris] are always sulking, people on the metro are sulking—everyone is a sourpuss. But I couldn’t live here, I don’t think.”

The Transom then asked him if the experience of playing Gainsbourg in France would be like playing Bob Dylan in America.

“I don’t know,” he said crunching his forehead in thought. “I don’t think Bob Dylan lived among the people the way Gainsbourg did. We would see him out at night, being drunk. I don’t think Dylan was so present in your everyday life.”

Dispatches from Tribeca: Serge Gainsbourg, Man of the People