Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg on DVD – Part 1

The release of Slogan (1969) from Cult Epics hasn’t gotten all that much attention, which is a bit of a shame because even though director Pierre Grimblat seems to have been inspired by Richard Lester’s own self-referential pop culture/media satires (think A Hard Day’s Night and Help! in terms of Lester's editing and his mix of docu and fashion-styled visuals), in Slogan Grimblat employed some very ingenious stylistic ideas that are very contemporary. I don’t think it’s too nutty to say the reason films like Crank (2006) are easily digested is because we’ve grown accustomed to the repetition of once daring filmmaking techniques.

Example: there’s no need to show a character entering an elevator, riding with him to his stop, and following him to the front door of his lover on the 10th floor; it’s already accepted that when he enters the building’s front door, we can cut from the front door slamming shut to the elevator doors snapping open on the 10th floor (or even his knuckles rapping on her apartment door) because we’ve already made that narrative leap in our minds due to the years we’ve been trained to make visual, aural, and narrative jumps from a faster editing style in films, TV, and music videos.

Slogan isn’t any different because director Grimblat junks a lot of foreplay, pretty chatter, and prolonged emotional reactions one would find in an Antonioni film, and cuts down a couple’s liaison to the main bits: they meet, they find each other hot, they try and make a go of things, and the idyll starts to disintegration. Our imagination fills in the rough edges around the jump cuts.

That isn’t to say this is the best way to tell a story; sometimes a slower pace and fine details, as in Jacques Deray’s La Piscine / The Swimming Pool (1969), can intensify hidden emotions by emphasizing the seemingly banal, but Slogan works (well, almost) because the romance is clichéd, and the director satirizes it while sparing us the most indulgent excesses of a married man boffing a young girl, leaving his wife, and realizing things ain’t so great anymore.

Slogan is also notable as the film where French singer/poet/composer Serge Gainsbourg fell in love with Britisher Jane Birkin, after which they made several films together, plus a few custom-tailored songs and albums.

So in light of the release and our reviews of Slogan and La Piscine (the latter part of the Alain Delon Collection from Lionsgate / Maple), we’ve also uploaded the second Birkin-Gainsbourg film, André Cayatte’s Chemins de Katmandou, Les / Overdose / The Pleasure Pit / Dirty Dolls in Katmandu (1969), as well as an episode of Legende, where director Philippe Labro documents Gainsbourg's tormented existence using a rich array of archival musical performances, film clips, and interviews with the two women in Gainsbourg’s life, Birkin herself, and model Bambou.

(We’ll eventually offer another wave of Birkin-Gainsbourg films for Part 2, but hopefully these reviews will shine a bit of attention on a pair of remarkable/flawed works currently on DVD, and a pair of films deserving their own DVD releases.)

Next DVD reviews: a Daniel Waters double-bill: the new Anniversary Edition of Heathers (1989) and Sex and Death 101 (2007), both from Anchor Bay / Starz.

And imminent: soundtrack reviews, including Stephen Sondheim’s Evening Primrose, with a related interview on this very rare work now on CD.


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