’60s icon preserves husband’s legacyJane Birkin left the swinging England of the late 1960s to pursue an acting career in France, a country she took by storm. She became an icon of that era, a gamine and androgynous sex kitten who garnered fame as an actress and a singer. While she’s known for films like “Blow Up,” which won the Palme d’Or Award at the 1967 Cannes International Film Festival and showed her in the nude, it is, in a way, a celebrated love affair that brings her to Korea on Feb. 7 at the LG Art Center.
Birkin was born to David Birkin, a commander in the British Royal Navy, and Judy Gamble, better known by her stage name, Judy Campbell, the muse of the playwright Noel Coward. Birkin followed after her mother, acting in theaters and singing in musicals. At the age of 19, she married John Barry, composer of the James Bond theme song, and had a daughter.
When that marriage came to an end, Birkin went to France to audition for Pierre Grimblat’s movie “Slogan.” She landed the role, starring opposite Serge Gainsbourg, a flamboyant musician who had just ended a much-publicized fling with Brigitte Bardot. Initially, Birkin and Gainsbourg sparred, but their professional relationship developed into a passionate affair, and the temporary move to France became a more permanent one.
Birkin and Gainsbourg became a much-talked about couple in Paris. He composed for Birkin, who during that time continued to act in some 30 movies, including Roger Vadim’s “Don Juan 73,” in which she played opposite Bardot as her lover.
Together, Birkin and Gainsbourg created scandalous songs like the 1969 song “Je t’Aime Moi Non Plus,” which the Vatican condemned as immoral, and movies like the 1976 “Je t’Aime Moi Non Plus.” Her voice was light and breathy, but perfect for Gainsbourg’s compositions.
In the early ’80s, she separated from Gainsbourg, who was battling depression and alcoholism, and met Jacques Doillon, a director. Trying to escape her “bimbo with an English accent” image, she went on to more serious roles in movies, to directing movies, to the stage and to leading humanitarian causes.
But Birkin and Gainsbourg continued to collaborate until his death in 1991. About 10 years later, Birkin released “Arabesque,” a tribute to Gainsbourg, presenting his French songs against a different landscape ― one that recalls Algeria and Andalusia. Popular songs such as “Elisa,” “Couleur Cafe” and “Comment te Dire Audieu” are performed with Middle Eastern instruments.
Birkin stands as a legacy in her own right, and as a gatekeeper to the legacy of Gainsbourg.
by Joe Yong-hee
Tickets are 30,000 to 70,000 won. To get to LG Art Center, use Yeoksam Station, line No. 2, exit 7. For more information, visit the Web site www.lgart.com.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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