1996.09.25 The Times "Gainsbourg the exhibitionist to star in his daughter's museum"

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  • Publication: 1996.09.25 country gb.gif The Times

Gainsbourg the exhibitionist to star in his daughter's museum

The demure French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, who stars in the latest version of Jane Eyre released this week, is planning to open a Paris museum in memory of her late father, Serge, the dissolute pop star.

Miss Gainsbourg, 25, whose mother is Jane Birkin, the English actress, recently bought the house on the Left Bank where her father died in 1991 after life dedicated to alcohol, cigarettes, music, women and scandalising his straight-laced compatriots. The wall in front of the building on the Rue Verneuil in the Latin Quarter is festooned with graffiti left by the singer's fans, and Miss Gainsbourg now intends to turn it into a shrine to her father's music and peculiar brand of public misbehaviour.

Preparing for the opening of France Zeffirelli's new film on Friday, Miss Gainsbourg emphasized that her own temperament is closer to that of Jane Eyre than Jane Birkin. "I'm very different from them, but I'm still proud of my upbringing", Miss Gainsbourg said. "I went to my first nightclub at the age of two. My parents belonged to another era."

The house where Gainsbourg and Miss Birkin threw their legendary parties cannot hold more than 100 people at a time, and entry to the future Serge Gainsbourg museum is likely to be by appointment, Miss Gainsbourg said. Exhibits are expected to include her father's trademark pinstripe suits and tennis shoes, as well as the remnants of his wine cellar and his extensive collection of ashtrays.

Gainsbourg was seldom sober and never seen without a Gauloise stuck to his lip, characteristics which led to several heart attacks, a liver operation and his death at the age of 62. In 1969 Gainsbourg and Miss Birkin gained massive fame and condemnation with "Je t'aime... moi non plus", a pseudo-coital heavy-breathing exercise, set to a string accompaniment, which was attacked by the Vatican, banned by the BBC and immediately shot to number one in the British charts. Although now cast in a more staid role, when Charlotte Gainsbourg was 12 collaborated with her father on another throaty and dubious duet entitled "Lemon Incest", a pun on the word incest, and then a film directly addressing that subject, Charlotte Forever, in which she and her father end up in bed together.

"It was big scandal at the time, but I didn't care what people thought," Miss Gainsbourg said. Her life is far different from that of her father. She assiduously steers clear of scandal and lives a quiet life in the Paris flat off the Champs Elysees she shares with Yvan Attal, her actor boyfriend.