In case you think you are going to uncover a hidden stand-out of the popular French New wave, Slogan (Pierre Grimblat, 1969) comes complete with violent camera zooms, unexplained punch-ups, beautiful women… and that's just the opening scene.
Serge Gainsbourg is Serge Faberger, a man who hates “choosing because I hate making sacrifices”… a man who cannot be trusted. Jane Birkin is Evelyne, the 18 year-old he falls for, after a string of beautiful 'Mademoiselles'... despite the fact that his wife is in bed, pregnant.
When English actress, Birkin auditioned for the role in 1968 she was 22 and couldn't speak a word of French. She got the role anyway, and as a result she positively glows and sparkles in this film but recites dialogue that is stilted and pared back to bare minimum: “A weekend?” / “Do you promise?” / “When?”
Evelyne is the perfect girl for Faberger, the most successful of ad creative execs who wants to make 'real films'. “You look like holidays,” he says as her hair covers her face as she drives in the wind. “Yes,” she replies. Serge Faberger is more hooked than he thinks, making their relationship and its disintegration all the more excruciating. In what becomes an unlikely disaster movie… of the heart.
(Original theatrical trailer)
The music is sexy and sensual – of course it is! The sets are vintage 1960s and the film seeps pop culture references with touches of irony. When Evelyne's jilted love holds an LP cover in front of Faberger it is of non other than Jules et Jim. With Faberger's wife holed up in bed on the doctor's orders and Evelyne's jilted lover soon to board a plane to London, there is no third wheel in this romance – Evelyne only has eyes for Fab. But when Evelyne feels “etiolated” (e·ti·o·lat·ed: adj used to describe a plant that is abnormally tall and spindly and deficient in green pigment chlorophyll owing to lack of light) – she runs away to London to reunite with said Love.
Slogan tries to box above weight, but its strength is in being kitsch. With no consistent style, Slogan is an anarchic compile of decadent shots filmed by an untamed camera. At once a film for aesthetes, with the camera gorging on architecture (and street signs that double as overt product placements), ornaments no longer available even on Ebay and convertible sports cars — this is certainly a vehicle for he who will become a French national-hero for his extraordinary contribution as singer/songwriter/poet/actor/film composer who is consistently in the centre of Slogan's largely misogynistic orbit. Surely, apart from the over use of montage, the real victim of Slogan is its devastating representation of women growing older and bad relationships.
The most memorable element of this film, in terms of cinema history, and the reason why I think you'll watch Slogan, is the first pairing of Gainsbourg and Birkin — beautiful, glamorous superstars and Charlotte's parents. This is the movie where they fell in love.
Watch it late at night – the first half with tongue firmly in cheek and bubbles and/or the second half with straight gin.
Available through Shock distribution.