BBC - Culture - Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg: Intimate portraits
Exhibition in Calais captures intimate moments from Birkin and Gainsbourg's relationship. Portrait of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin by Bert Stern for Vogue Despite having a long relationship full of intense love and creativity, the. In the s Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg charmed and Against all advice, Jane succumbed to John's proposal of marriage that.
Jane married composer John Barry, whom she describes as the first man to love her, at He had cast her in his musical, Passion Flower Hotel. Before Jane and John boarded their plane on their honeymoon, Andrew, jealous, enraged her new husband by passionately kissing his sister on the lips.Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin (France 1969) Rock, Pop, Chanson
British-born Jane said she very much disliked Serge to begin with, and according to Andrew, couldn't even pronounce his name. Serge loved taking the siblings to transvestite nightclubs.
A very displeased Serge was on set while Jane filmed a rape scene for the movie May Morning. He kept himself busy by making notes for his next album. The carryall predecessor to the Birkin bag fell open when she set it down just outside to sign an autograph, spilling its contents onto the ground.
A waiter offered to bring her more. Albert Speer, formerly a member of Hitler's inner circle and high-ranking Nazi official, asked Andrew if he would have Jane and Serge sign a copy of their record for him. Serge, Jewish, delighted in the irony. It was not surprising that Serge should take to this odd family with brazen relish.
Meanwhile Jane and Serge had gone to Nepal, where Jane played a hippie in Les Chemins de Katmandou — and where they both got so stoned that they never dared repeat the experience.
Jane Birkin's love affair with Serge Gainsbourg
Reluctantly I returned to England, where Serge was about to get his first taste of a traditional family Christmas. Jane cautiously produced a demo LP that she and Serge had recorded and played it to us.
Only later did she come up to visit me alone, clutching the demo. There was another song on the album, one she had not dared to play in front of our parents: Gainsbourg and Kate in Bladon churchyard, In the new year brought the news that MGM had pulled the plug on Napoleon for good. To learn something about film editing, I took a job in the cutting rooms at Pinewood Studios, but not before gasping a last breath of freedom in France with Jane and Serge, holed up near Deauville.
That night Serge and I played chess, the first of many games. He was undoubtedly the better player when sober, but I had the advantage once the wine began to flow.
He liked to play for money, and Jane was less than pleased to note how often he would wind up drunk at the end of a game while I counted my winnings. On the surface we were polar opposites: I was a deeply antisocial socialist, whereas Serge was a gregarious capitalist — or so he seemed.
But alone with him, I caught my first real glimpse of his Russian melancholy and essential loneliness, despite his surface gaiety. As Jane later wrote to me, 'Serge has no friends. All the names in his fat address book are business relations or past mistresses — but not one real friend.
There was a night shoot in progress, in which Jane seemed to be dancing one moment and being ravaged the next. Serge had the shoot all worked out. We sought out the Oxford bus depot, deserted at the weekend, and bribed the watchman to turn a blind eye while Serge took to the wheel of a double-decker with Jane at his side. Charlotte with her father, The next day we went to Bladon churchyard as Jane and I wanted to see the grave of Sir Winston Churchill.
Kate was with us, and Serge suddenly conceived the notion of acting out her worst nightmare — a sort of preview of his film Stan the Flasher. With Kate happily playing his victim, Serge crept among the tombstones, then — his eyeballs rolling and limbs flailing — he pounced and carried her off to her doom.
We knew then that the s honeymoon was over. The new decade began well for me: I was finally being paid to direct, albeit in the second unit on a small movie for David Puttnam. This led him to give me my first commission as a scriptwriter — on a musical with Bob Dylan in mind. One of the few joys of writing is not being tied to any particular location, and as Jane and Serge were making Romance of a Horsethief in Yugoslavia with Eli Wallach and Yul Brynner our Magnificent Seven heroes from childhoodwhere better to hole up for a few weeks?
I drove from England to the little town of Ilok, where they were entrenched with Kate in a huge castle overlooking the Danube. As Yul B and EI Wallop as Kate christened him had their rooms down the corridor, entertainment was guaranteed and little writing done.
Charlotte being photographed by her mother, The adventure extended to several months when Jane and Serge went on to make a Yugoslav war film, way off the beaten track in the Serbian hinterland. The producer gave them a soulless modern house on the edge of a village called Gacko, in which I took happy refuge on their kitchen sofa, tapping away on my portable Olivetti while they engaged with thespian Nazis. Most evenings Serge and I would play chess, with more or less success on my part thanks to a large supply of Russian vodka.
After a month in Gacko, Serge suggested we drive to Dubrovnik for the weekend. He booked us into a romantic hotel overlooking the harbour, then we went shopping and bought an enormous toy train set, which we soon had running between our two bedrooms.
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The album cover depicted Jane, hiding her four-month pregnancy behind the symbol of her childhood, Munckey. By the time we reached Berlin, I knew what my next project had to be. As it happened, David Puttnam had read the same interview and felt exactly as I did. Six weeks later we were cruising down an autobahn to meet Speer in his Heidelberg eyrie, liberated after 20 years in Spandau and now enjoying the fruits of fame derived from his autobiography, Inside the Third Reich.
We found him to be in fine fettle, exuding the same insidious charm he cast on Hitler, the Playboy interviewer — and us. Later I popped the question to Jane, who thought it a tad tactless to ask Serge, given his Jewish pedigree, but in the event he was only too happy to sign, doubtless relishing the irony.
A couple of years later Serge made his album Rock Around the Bunker and gave me a copy to send to Speer. Then a telephone call came to say that Jane was due to give birth at any moment, so I hoofed it back to London, where I found Serge pacing up and down the hospital corridor, knee-deep in Gitanes butts.
We went to the pub across the road, and by the time we got back to the hospital, Charlotte had arrived, with Kate in attendance. The following summer Jane and Serge took a chateau near St Tropez, big enough to house both their extended families. This now included Nana, a bull terrier frequently mistaken for a pig, compared with which Serge felt beautiful.
Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg: a romance of a lifetime
Whenever she felt pangs of homesickness, Jane would head across the Channel with Serge, Kate and Charlotte in tow. As we were leaving bleary-eyed in the dawn someone stopped her for an autograph.
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Jane put down the top-heavy basket, whereupon it capsized, and, to her toe-curling embarrassment, out rolled a dozen saucers and plates across the dining-room floor. The head waiter nonchalantly gathered them up and handed them back to Jane. Serge was less than impressed and asked whether I had ever heard Feodor Chaliapin, the Russian bass.