Charlotte Gainsbourg Is Overcome With Emotion As She Recalls Mother Jane Birkin At Lumière Film Festival

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Actress Charlotte Gainsbourg made a moving presentation of her documentary Jane By Charlotte, capturing her complex relationship with her late mother Jane Birkin, ahead of a screening at the Lumière Film Festival on Saturday.

The documentary is playing as part of a tribute to iconic UK-French actress and singer Birkin, who died on July 16 at the age of 76.

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Sparked by Gainsbourg’s desire to get closer to her mother amid a sense that time was running out, the film follows Birkin on tour in Japan, at her beloved Breton home and also on a visit to the untouched Paris mansion she once shared with Serge Gainsbourg.

“I haven’t yet dared to take on board what this film will mean in my eyes in the future. I miss her so much that I am not formulating anything yet,” a visibly moved Gainsbourg told a packed cinema in Lyon.

“But I know that I had incredible luck in the years of making the film. There was a rather complicated, you could say failed, start in Japan… then a pause of one, two years, to then start again in 2018 until the autumn of 2019… with meetings in all the places I could think of putting her on the screen.”

“All these questions that I was going to ask, eager to hear her replies, her reactions. It was a huge pleasure for both of us to meet, getting a bit closer every time, with her generosity growing as she talked about everything.”

Gainsbourg broke off at a certain point with Institut Lumière director Thierry Frémaux giving her a consolatory on-stage hug, before she delivered the rest of the introduction with her back to the audience.

“We had this suspended parenthesis, both of us, which today, is so valuable to me. I remember the edit, in which I was able to spend all these hours looking at her, isolated, in front of her face, her voice, where I understood how directors never let go of their actors when they love them,” she added.

“I don’t know quite how to present this film. I did lots of presentations when she still alive, sometimes by my side. I was so scared during the shoot that this day would arrive, at each stage, I was scared it would happen, and now it has. I’m no longer scared for her, that’s over, but I miss her, so make the most of her.”

The Lumière Film Festival, where Gainsbourg will be joined by her sister Lou Doillon on Sunday, is also playing Jacques Doillon’s 1987 film Comedie! and Birkin’s feature directorial debut family drama Boxes.

The latter biographical drama, which world premiered in Cannes Un Certain Regard in 2007, stars Birkin as a woman looking back over her life – with three failed marriages and a daughter from each of the failed relationships – as she sifts through boxes of personal effects.

Frémaux also payed tribute to Birkin, who was a regular visitor to the institute’s home city of Lyon as well as a guest of the festival.

“She was a multi-disciplinarian, from Jane the young actress in Jacques Deray’s The Swimming Pool, to the singer and the incredible on-stage performer that she was,” he said. “We lost someone we loved a lot. She came to Lyon a lot… I think she performed in every concert hall of the city.”

He noted that Birkin had been a friend of the Institut Lumière’s late president and co-founder, the director Bertrand Tavernier.

“She appeared in his film Daddy Nostalgie (aka These Foolish Things), a film that is worth seeing again. She also came to sing for Martin Scorsese, when he received the Lumière Prize [in 2015],” he said.

“Now she has gone to the great sadness of everyone,” said Frémaux. “It’s there where we see how these great artists slip into our lives and when they’re no longer there, there is a collective sadness.”

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