Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
I can’t think of a more burdensome heritage than this: Charlotte Gainsbourg is the daughter not of one, but of two icons. Her mother, the British singer and actress Jane Birkin, was a sex-symbol during the Seventies and is still performing on stage.
Her father was the French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. He was the “enfant terrible” who burnt notes of 500 Francs in a tv-show and since his early death in 1991 has become a legend in France. Plus: Charlotte is doing what her parents did and still do so brilliantly, acting and singing. Usually, this leads to big disappointments and at the very least a narcissistic personality. Not with her. She is kind of modest and she has made her own name. As an actor and as a singer.
I imagined her like in her films: A very soft and delicate person. Curiously, when I met her, she surpassed all my expectations. She’s just from another planet. A planet called serenity. The interview took place in a back room of Hôtel Montalembert in the 7th arrondissement, just around the corner from where Charlotte grew up and where she is living until now with her husband, the filmmaker Yvan Attal and their two children Ben, Alice Jane and Joe.
Charlotte drank green tea and looked as if green tea would be her principal diet all day long. But it’s not her strange beauty or her lithe body which is so astonishing. It’s her easy and frank character.
The encounter took place just after her huge success in Lars von Triers film “Antichrist” in which she starred. She had just won the Best Actress Award in Cannes for her role in the Trier-Movie and felt, as she told me, happy and even proud. “It was like winning a major sporting event, something like the Worldcup” she said, laughing. In terms of acting that’s pretty accurate. Shooting the film was actually an endurance test, physically and psychologically speaking. The kind of experience that changes everything. She weighed her words very carefully and tried to make herself understood: “Antichrist” was an experience that had changed her. It was the fact that she took every question so seriously that made this interview so very different from what most famous actors do.
“Shooting with Lars von Trier was a revelation for me”. She stressed how close she felt to him without really knowing him. Was it because Lars von Trier reminded her of her father? “Of course”, she replied. “He has the same way of being provocative and at the same time fragile, as well as unpredictable.” But then she corrected herself and said that Serge Gainsbourg was much more predictable than the Danish filmmaker. Of course alcohol was another factor with her father. And did she give everything in this film, her naked body and her naked soul, to please van Trier, just as she wanted to please her father? Definitely, Charlotte admits.
We also talked about her album. “IRM” is the title, which means simply: MRI in English, magnetic resonance imaging. Charlotte had a lot of them after an intracranial haemorrhage due to a water-ski accident. It’s an album with a very personal signature. My favourite song? “Heaven can wait”. It definitely can. Outside the hotel Yvan was waiting for her. They had a small talk, a kiss and then she walked back in to give another interview and a whole lot of herself.
Here is the official video to “Heaven can wait”:
And here is her website with music and interviews:
Charlotte Gainsbourg: Heaven can wait