January 18, 2022

Jane by Charlotte: Charlotte Gainsbourg’s moving documentary about her mother, Jane Birkin

Presented at the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, the documentary “Jane by Charlotte”, by Charlotte Gainsbourg, is the tender and intimate look of a girl on her mother. At the cinema this January 12.

1988. Filmmaker Agnès Varda directs Jane B. by Agnès V., a documentary dedicated to Jane Birkin. In this film, the icon is revealed. Her career as a woman, singer, actress, muse too. More than thirty years later, she is again the subject of a cinematographic portrait, very different this time. It is directed by his own daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Already gone behind the camera for one of her video clips, this is the first time that the actress has directed a feature film. A soft film, modest while being intimate and of a disarming sincerity. Not all mothers are as famous as Jane Birkin, yet the documentary gradually erases the status of icon and the weight of celebrity to leave only the human complexities, common to all.

One thing is certain, Charlotte Gainsbourg did not expect to create a universal documentary, on the contrary. “I made the film very selfishly. For me, to experience something with my mother, she explains to AlloCine. All I wanted to do was hang out with her, ask her questions I wouldn’t have dared ask her face to face. I didn’t even imagine it could hit theaters. I only understood the film we were making very late. That it can affect people now, it makes me very happy.”

We’re afraid of having done wrong, of not being up to the task, I know moms understand that.

Finally, everyone who saw this film talked about their mother or their daughter. It’s more than a family affair“, relaunch Jane Birkin. For a parent, it is fortunate when the child turns to you. How many failures? How many times would we have preferred the child to tell us that he is doing badly? We’re afraid of having done wrong, of not being up to the task, I know moms understand that. We are all in the same situation. It’s universal and it doesn’t stop.

After a difficult first part of filming, it is ultimately over the duration that Charlotte gainsbourg found the rhythm and tone of his documentary. “I had a few questions for him and they were poorly worded at first. I was doing with a lot of benevolence, I didn’t mean to shock her.”

Nolita Cinema – Deadly Valentine

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin in “Jane by Charlotte”.

Photos, Super 8 images, amateur camera… With Jane by Charlotte, the director turned to experimentation. She nevertheless surrounded herself with a director of photography, Adrien Bertolle, to offer a film with real ambition. “There is a real staging, it is not a simple documentary on daddy-mom, the brothers and the sisters“, says Jane Birkin.

More than a project on a mother-daughter relationship, Jane par Charlotte is also a quest for identity. Where to be in a sibling? How do parents see their child and how can we build on this? “There are only people like your mom or dad who can tell you what you are to them, adds Jane Birkin. We spend our life telling ourselves that we deserve a better place.”

Interview by Thomas Desroches, in Angoulême, in August 2021.

Jane par Charlotte, at the cinema on January 12.

Check out the movie trailer: