5 Must-See Films Starring Jane Birkin
Born in England, living in France, the former muse and lover of Serge Gainsbourg has had a very versatile career in music and film, the latter justifying the Pardo alla carriera of which she is a recipient this year. Over the course of five decades in the film industry, she has worked with the likes of Michelangelo Antonioni, Jacques Doillon (her partner from 1980 to 1991), Guy Hamilton, Jacques Rivette, Alain Resnais, Agnès Varda and Bertrand Tavernier. Here are five unmissable selections from her rich filmography.
La Piscine (1969)
Recently – and loosely – remade by Luca Guadagnino with the title A Bigger Splash, Jacques Deray’s drama about sex, jealousy and death casts the then 25-year old Birkin as Penelope, the young daughter of Maurice Ronet’s Harry. Her presence, though not quite as prominent as that of leading lady Romy Schneider, is indelible, particularly in the erotically charged scenes she shares with Alain Delon.
Je t’aime moi non plus (1976)
Based on the famously provocative song of the same title, Gainsbourg’s first foray into directing is every bit as bold and playful, putting Birkin at the center of a love triangle whose explorations of sex get more explicit and bizarre as the story progresses. The actress delivers a strong performance that provides the emotional backbone for a film that, at the time, was deemed scandalous enough to be banned wholesale in the UK.
Death on the Nile (1978)
John Guillermin’s adaptation of the Agatha Christie mystery novel is best remembered for being the first Hercule Poirot film to feature Sir Peter Ustinov as the famed Belgian detective, but it also boasts an impressive ensemble cast, including Birkin as Louise Bourget, the maid of Linnet Ridgeway Doyle (Lois Chiles). A more lighthearted turn in service of a fun detective story.
La Fille prodigue (1981)
Birkin’s first of two collaborations with Doillon is a thoughtful, gripping drama about a dysfunctional family, with the actress holding her own next to Michel Piccoli and creating an on-screen rapport that endured and evolved over the years, albeit in different forms (see La Belle Noiseuse, where they play husband and wife as opposed to father and daughter). 35 years later, their interplay remains a moving lesson in film acting.
Birkin directs herself in an autobiographical story of family reunions and coming to terms with the past (the titular boxes serving as a metaphor for compartmentalizing aspects of life). Real life and fiction are intertwined to form a sincere, touching examination of familial relationships, embodied by a superb cast that includes John Hurt, Geraldine Chaplin, a then unknown Adèle Exarchopoulos and Birkin’s own daughter, Lou Doillon. A little gem that deserves to be (re)discovered.