Jane Birkin .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jane Birkin has assumed many roles in her long career in music, film and theater
– lithe 1960s pin-up star, versatile actress, singing muse of Serge Gainsbourg,
international champion for human rights. But at age 65, the role she relishes in
the most is that of mother.
With three daughters fathered by three
different men – photographer Kate Barry with then-husband John Barry; popular
singer/actress Charlotte Gainsbourg with longtime beau
singer/songwriter/actor/director Gainsbourg; and actress/songwriter Lou Doillon
with director Jacques Doillon – Birkin is a kveller but not a busybody when it
comes to her girls’ careers.
“I encourage and am an admiring mother,” the
multi-talented Birkin told The Jerusalem Post
in an e-mail interview ahead of
her two upcoming shows – Birkin Sings Gainsbourg via Japan, in Tel Aviv at
Reading 3 on January 14 and 15.
[the 2011 film in which
Charlotte Gainsbourg co-stars with Kirsten Dunst] just has to be one of her
finest pieces of work, subtle and surprising. She’s a great actress and bold
singer... She doesn’t need my advice, I’m just there if she’s down, as all
mothers are. It’s the same with Lou, who’s springing into her own, with a record
she both wrote and sang, theater with a production of The Seagull
and her films.
And dear Kate and her photographs. I’m just so thrilled for my three girls and
Of course, their talent probably had something to do
with the genes they inherited from Birkin, who has been in the spotlight since
appearing at age 20 in the nude in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 prototype 1960s
. The accent on her sexuality continued after she met Gainsbourg and
began collaborating with him in music and in film.
Their most notorious
moment together appeared courtesy of their 1969 single “Je t’aime...moi non
plus” (I Love you... Me Neither), in which Birkin’s moans and groans in the
background build up to their natural conclusion. The result caused a sensation,
with the record banned in some countries and a huge hit everywhere, including
Israel, where it’s still aired regularly by Israel Radio in the middle of the
The song, with its languorous piano-based rhythms, influenced
the music of everyone from Portishead and Air to Dido and Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker
and set up Birkin as a cultural icon from then on. However, she refused to be
defined by it, moving on to resume her acting career by appearing as Brigitte
Bardot’s lover in 1973’s Don Juan
(Or If Don Juan Were a Woman
) and in 1975
collaborating with Gainsbourg, appearing in his first film, Je t’aime...moi non
, based on their hit song.
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She then went on to star in the Agatha
Christie films Death on the Nile
(1978) and Evil Under the Sun
(1982), while at
the same time beginning to appear frequently on theater stages and holding down
a second career as a singer with albums including Baby Alone in Babylone, Amours
des Feintes, Lolita Go Home
The ensuing years have been
similar, with Birkin juggling activities on almost a daily basis.
happy to be asked to do anything by friends,” says Birkin. “Hence
yesterday, I was filming in Turin, for Sergio Castelito with Penelope Cruz, I’m
appearing in Quebec in February with Wajdi Mouawad in a one-woman play he wrote
for me – La Sentinelle – and I’m performing the Japanese musical show up to the
end of the year. So I’m a very unfrustrated person and a very lucky
No matter which avenues her muse has led her down, Birkin always
seems to return to the main artistic effect on her life – her time with
Gainsbourg. Twenty years after his death and 40 years after L’Histoire de
Melody Nelson, the first Gainsbourg concept album featuring Birkin, the singer
is still singing his music.
In the past, Birkin has presented
Gainsbourg’s music in different settings – including 2002’s Algerian-tinged
shows Arabesque. On her current tour, Birkin is offering the Gainsbourg songbook
of jazz, cabaret, reggae and offbeat French pop interpreted by a group of
Japanese backing musicians on piano, violin, drums and horns. The
collaboration arose after Birkin traveled to Japan and got involved with relief
efforts after last year’s devastating earthquake by staging a Tokyo concert to
raise funds for Doctors of the World.
“Singing songs makes me feel less
useless than watching misery on the television,” she said. “I’m lucky enough to
have been able to be there and show that their feeling of being forgotten in an
indifferent world can be proven wrong. I’m a messenger!”Jane Birkin will perform at Reading 3 in Tel Aviv on January 14 and 15.
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