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Music Box Films
Juliette Greco (Anna Mouglalis) and Serge Gainsbourg (Eric Elmosnino) in "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life."

"GAINSBOURG: A HEROIC LIFE" — ★★ — Eric Elmosnino, Laetitia Casta, Lucy Gordon, Anna Mouglalis; not rated but probable R (nudity, sensuality and sex); in French with English subtitles; Broadway

There's a bold idea behind this picaresque biography of French pop star/provocateur Serge Gainsbourg.

It's an attempt to show how a cheeky Jewish boy who flaunted his yellow star in Nazi-occupied Paris was inspired and then destroyed by his fantasy of musical stardom.

Eric Elmosnino, who plays Gainsbourg with jumpy energy, is shadowed through dozens of scenes by a grotesque alter ego with the beak-like nose and bat ears of an anti-Semitic caricature.

This shadow self bosses Gainsbourg around, but also gives him the courage to take a shot at a pop-music career. After his giddy and chaotic days of early success, he becomes an alcoholic provocateur and a disreputable national treasure, his pugnacious charm turning to rot.

Writer/director Joann Sfar, a graphic novelist, has a strong visual sensibility, but writes the story frustratingly.

If you only know Gainsbourg as the singer/composer of the orgasmic stateside hit "Je T'aime," you may not be able to navigate among the parade of singers and actresses who tumble through his bedroom (the nudity is so unerotic that it's hard to know why the scenes are there at all).

It's the story of a genius with no moral sense and no interests beyond sensuality. The catchy, insinuating music can only carry you so far.

"Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life" is not rated but would probably receive and R for nudiy, sensuality and sex; running time: 130 minutes.