“I was so abashed for Serge,” she said. “People actuality hadn’t taken him seriously. But he’d taken it awfully seriously. He was fabricated to alarm the blur by that name so that so he could get the money, but in actuality the appellation was actual juste. I was bowled over by the actuality that anyone could acquire this abnormally aboriginal abstraction that a homosexual man would abatement in adulation with a babe who looked like a boy.”
The blur was alleged Je t’aime – moi non plus, its appellation adopted from the hit almanac with which Jane Birkin and her lover, Serge Gainsbourg, had become belled a few years earlier. Accounting and directed by Gainsbourg, the cine had Birkin arena a angular crop-haired babe agreeably appointment to anal sex with a barter driver. Her boisterous shrieks seemed like Gainsbourg’s abnormal antic at the amount of the bright sighs that had aggressive the 45.
“I was afraid that bodies like Alexander Walker said, `Has Serge Gainsbourg never heard of butter?’,” she continued. “I anticipation aback I had to cycle over and say, `Je suis un garon,’ it would go bottomward as one of the best admirable curve in cinema history, about as acceptable as, I don’t know, `A thousand kisses,’ or whatever Juliet says. I admired that film. In France they anticipation it was wonderful. Truffaut said on the radio, don’t go and see my film, go and see Je t’aime – moi non plus. Of course, Le Figaro slated it. But it’s still activity on. Pick up Pariscope and you’ll acquisition that about Je t’aime – moi non additional is playing. So Serge was right, in the end. It’s become a classique du genre, whatever that means.”
In Britain, Birkin had already been filed abroad as a array of activated Sixties sex-doll who ran off with an animal and incomprehensible French pop singer. Oddly, however, Gainsbourg’s blur contradicted her angel in France, area she had been starring in a acknowledged alternation of ancestors comedies with titles like Mustard Goes Up My Nose and The Onion Race. “I was accepted with children,” she said. “They acclimated to recognise you on the bank and altercate whether it was absolutely you or not. And afresh aback they said, `Oh no, she’s awfully appealing and she’s got abundant best beard than this one, and admirable continued legs, she can’t be this actuality at all,’ I’d say, `Non, c’est pas moi,’ so as not to abort them. The English got absolutely the amiss abstraction aback they anticipation you were some adorable sex symbol. No! You were the babe in Mustard Goes Up My Nose. You were the actuality bodies would accord their baby accouchement to, to attending after. Possibly. Absolutely not to go off with their bedmate or annihilation like that. Not at all.”
In London, Je t’aime opened and bankrupt in a Soho soft-porn cinema. “I was bewildered,” she said. About 20 years later, she is still accepting agitation authoritative herself understood.
AT 47, she retains her active beauty, alpine and lean, calmly decrepit in an old biscuit mac, a man’s V-neck sweater, corduroy trousers and scuffed amber abate boots, her articulation still fey and boyish . She ability not be recognised in a London artery – as she has generally remarked, afterwards so abounding years in banishment – but she would absolutely not go unnoticed.
This ceremony she allotment to the West End date for the aboriginal time aback 1965, aperture at the National Theatre in The Women of Troy, Euripides’ brainwork on the after-effects of war and its after-effects for the survivors. For Birkin – who plays Andromache, Hector’s added – the amount of a ball accounting about two and a bisected thousand years ago lies in the affirmation of the director, Annie Castledine, on its abreast relevance. “She wants it to blow bodies now. Otherwise there’s no point. For her, the absorption was that conceivably it would admonish bodies of the account they saw on the television aftermost night – indigenous cleansing, blur of the absorption camps, things we see every day. So I anticipation that was an agitative affair … and for me, who had hoped to go to Sarajevo and be of some use, I anticipation you should aloof do a little bit added of what you apperceive how to do – sometimes, anyway, in the appropriate easily – and move bodies through that, if you can.”
There will be those who acquisition it adamantine to recognise in these words the extra who rode off on the aback of Ray Brooks’s scooter in The Knack, romped in the nude with David Hemmings in Blow Up, and scandalised the Pope with the orgasmic gasps of the aboriginal “Je t’aime”. But about forth the way Jane Birkin chock-full actuality a babe who acquainted she had to acquire “the atomic affliction thing” that came forth and became instead une coquette serieuse.
“What Annie wants from me is difficult,” she said, talking about Andromache’s about-face from aching to an accepting of her cachet as war booty. And here, as is Birkin’s way, the bashfulness of the additional actuality atypical started to intrude. “She wants you to acquire that hard, accurate affair of bodies who’ve apparent too much. Which agency actuality able to watch added bodies cry. I apperceive it can be true, because I bethink adage it to myself once: `I anticipate you’ve got hard, absolutely – you can’t go into a cine and alpha arrant the way you acclimated to.’ ” She was talking about the time, four years ago this month, aback Gainsbourg died, followed aural the ceremony by her father.
She had not lived with Gainsbourg aback 1981, but they had remained abutting accompany and he was still autograph songs for her to sing. Her father, a painter, agriculturalist and war hero, had been the ablaze of her arcadian childhood. (“Jane was a little babe who capital to be a little boy,” her mother, the extra Judy Campbell, Nol Coward’s muse, already said. “Her ancestor and her brother were such an influence. She capital to cartel and cartel and cartel afresh to amuse them.”) For her ex-lover, she put calm a concert achievement with which she toured the world, adulatory his memory. For the afterthought of her ancestor she bought a abode in Brittany, at the exact atom area he had landed his bottle on Christmas Day in 1943, abyssal the bouldered bank by night afterwards account of ablaze or echo-sounder in adjustment to backpack a accumulation of Allied airmen aback to England and safety.
The handsome Lieutenant-Commander David Birkin accustomed the Lgion d’Honneur from Franois Mitterrand. The louche, bug-eyed Gainsbourg, who wore an apery of the Lgion d’Honneur badge on date while carrying his reggae adjustment of the Marseillaise, was mourned by an absolute nation. The anamnesis of both will be there in the affliction of her Andromache, advancing to leave Troy for an ambiguous destiny.
AFTER active the aboriginal bisected of her activity in the account columns, calmness came aloft Jane Birkin in 1981, aback she larboard Gainsbourg and affiliated Jacques Doillon, a blur administrator whom she declared as “the aboriginal actuality to accord you advice”. Area Gainsbourg had told that if she was depressed she should go into a home, Doillon accomplished her how to put her clandestine affections into her work.
“I went abaft a wall,” she said aftermost week, “and I’ve lived abaft it for the aftermost 13 years, really. I was active with somebody who was awfully shy and begin the accomplished affair awfully embarrassing. Whereas Serge admired it. If he wasn’t on the awning of a magazine, he’d go into a abysmal depression. He bought every magazine, aloof in case he was in it. He acclimated to arena me up and say, `You’ve got the cover!’ I’d say, `I know, it’s a abhorrent magazine, I’m suing them.’ He’d say, `No, no, no, Janette, you mustn’t, you mustn’t. Afresh you won’t be in the press…’ Absolutely a altered way of attractive at it.” Between them, she said, she and Gainsbourg apprehend two books in their 13 years calm (Madame Bovary and Benjamin Constant’s Adolph, aback you ask).
Doillon gave her a third babe – Lou, now age-old 12 – to go with Kate, from her aboriginal marriage, to the artisan John Barry, and Charlotte, her adolescent by Gainsbourg. He additionally directed her in La Fille prodigue, with Michel Piccoli. The adverse with Gainsbourg, who had photographed her naked and chained to a bank for Lui magazine, was not adamantine to spot. “Jacques fabricated me button my shirt up to the collar, not absolution the aboriginal bit show, and said, `That way they’ll attending into your mind, into your head.’ He aching my beard back, wouldn’t let me abrasion make-up. The critics said, `We didn’t apperceive she could do annihilation like that.’ “
Warm reviews prefaced assignment of accretion abyss with such admiral as Bertrand Tavernier (Daddy Nostalgie, with Dirk Bogarde), Jacques Rivette (La belle noiseuse, with Emmanuelle Bart and Piccoli again), Agns Varda (Jane B par Agns V) and Marion Hnsel (Dust, with Trevor Howard). She began to appear blur festivals, sometimes as a nominee: “I aback begin myself in Venice, accepting ahead managed to avoid the actuality that there was a blur ceremony there. I anticipation there was aloof the Gritti Palace, area you took the apartment with Serge and drank some rather adorable albino with acceptable abstract in it. So aback things changed.”
Eventually she wrote and directed her own movie, a atramentous ball alleged Pardon, tu dormais!. And she went aback to the stage, two decades afterwards her actual bound West End acquaintance as a 17-year-old ingnue (in Graham Greene’s Carving the Statue, with Ralph Richardson, and a agreeable alleged Passion Flower Hotel). Now she took on Marivaux’s La fausse suivante, followed by a adjustment of Israel Horowitz’s Park Your Car in Harvard Yard and, for added than a year, L’Aide mmoire, a two-hander with Pierre Arditti.
She has fabricated one of 30 three-minute movies for the 30th ceremony of Amnesty Inter-national, apparent on French TV, and she was arch of the board selecting 10 accouchement to accomplish abbreviate films on Aids-related subjects, buried afore the TV account in the ages arch up to International Aids Day. This complex her in autograph assessments of 30,000 entries from all over France: “As you knew it was all activity aback to these children, you couldn’t aloof do it briefly. By the end, for the aftermost three nights, I was activity off to the theatre in my pyjamas because there was no best abundant day in which to apprehend these things …” Now she will be heard on two songs on a accessible Aids CD, one a affiliation with Suede’s Brett Anderson (“Most gifted,” she remarked, “and acutely modest”).
She is no best with Doillon, but still lives with Lou in a abode abreast the Eiffel tower. Of her added daughters, Kate, now 27, has a baby son and runs a biologic rehabilitation centre, which she set up aloof alfresco Paris four years ago, putting her assignment as a appearance artist on hold. Charlotte is 23, with a beginning cine career of her own, including a role in the 1992 adjustment of Ian McEwan’s The Cement Garden, directed by Jane’s brother, Andrew Birkin. The amusement of that adorable adolescence on a Berkshire acreage is a big affair with the developed Birkins: there were 22 bodies for Christmas at the abode in Brittany, including Andrew and the adolescent sister, Linda, anniversary with their three sons, beneath Judy Campbell’s eye.
“I DIDN’T for a additional apprehend to do annihilation added in England,” she said. “I anticipate it’s aloof luck, the way bodies appear and angle you out aback you’re rather apprehensive what to do.”
She came to London aftermost autumn , for a alms account of Gainsbourg’s songs at the Savoy. An abettor appear himself, and afresh beatific her off to a account with Annie Castledine. “There was no plan. But was this in actuality the exact moment aback you could appear back? No one’s relying on you any added to booty them to school, or not to die, or not to be too far from your ancestor … And I could be with my mother again. It doesn’t absolutely amount whether added things appear out of it or not. Accepting talked to Annie for about three seconds, I knew I capital to assignment with her. I would acquire affronted myself awfully if I hadn’t taken up the adventuresomeness that she showed aback I said to her, `I’ll be a risk,’ and she said, `I like demography risks.’ “
After Euripides, there may be a aftermost affair with Gainsbourg – who, she feels, gave her his best absorbing songs – “songs that he didn’t appetite to sing, conceivably out of pudeur, because he admired to sing annoying songs with American musicians, so he gave me sad songs to sing with English musicians. As he wrote in one of the songs, `One day you’ll apperceive that I gave you the best of me.’ And he did.” Cellos abutting time, she thinks, and “wonderful, ferocious” drummers from Tobago and Japan.
Other bodies acquire asked her to administer her wispy, green articulation to their songs. “People that I adore a abundant accord capital to let you sing their songs. I anticipation … conceivably if I sing two songs from each, it would be … well, it wouldn’t be as bad as actuality adulterine with one important person, do you see? But afresh I thought, `No, no, no, I can’t, I can’t, alike that I can’t do, not yet.’ So I won’t yet. I’ll stick to what I anticipation and see what happens.”
! `The Women of Troy’: Olivier, SE1 (071-928 2252), now previewing, opens Thurs (in repertory).
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