Goodmoods

A new album by

Jane Birkin’s

 

Everything seems to have already been said: her graceful timbre, her French mistakes, her mischief, her basket and flared jeans, her three children, her filmography marked out by Agnès Varda, Jean-Luc Godard, or Jacques Doillon. Yet Jane Birkin, still has a lot to say: 12 years after her last album of unreleased tracks, she comes back with an album called « Oh pardon tu dormais… ». – set to music by Etienne Daho and Jean-Louis Piérot – of which she wrote all the lyrics. While waiting for its release on November 20th, she unveils her first title « Les Jeux Interdits ». A song which reminds us that behind the black and white photo, the chorus, the crocheted dress or the accent hides a singular artist…

Between two walks on the beaches of the Pays des Abers, three historical readings and four sleepless nights, Jane Birkin reveals her inspirations, memories and passions.

Les jeux interdits

What is this song about?

 

« My daughters were fascinated by René Clément’s film « Les Jeux interdits », they saw it again and again. They did the same by burying everything they could get their hands on: even the Sunday roast. Absolutely everything. It was tremendously charming, zany. It’s a song lulled by this memory of Kate and Charlotte in Cresseveuille when I had the small rectory overlooking the cemetery. »

Jane and her daughters Kate and Charlotte with Serge Gainsbourg in Normandy, August 1977

«  »Forbidden games » is a very sweet, charming memory. My daughter Kate thought it was unfair that in the cemetery there were graves with lots of flowers, touching words and others with nothing. So she started to spread everything out and nothing matched anymore! We were asked to put the cemetery back in order. It was done with such a good heart, that’s what I explained to the mayor, when you are a child you think that everyone should have a little bit. This song recounts those memories that Étienne Daho made more mischievous, in a spicier tone ».

 

How was this song composed?

 

« For this song, the songwriting was quite dazzling. Etienne and I didn’t spend much time together, but the days we saw each other we worked a lot, it was magical. One word triggered another. He noted everything I’d written lately, in my diary, but also in two songs I’d started during the Gainsbourg Symphony tour when I missed Kate too much. It was a mixture of all of that. »

A word to describe your mood of the moment?

 

« There’s a phrase that Étienne says all the time so I’ll paraphrase it: « ah, this morning you’re sunny! » »

Solar energy

How did you come up with the clip with director Romain Winkler?

 

 

« I wanted it to look like a Super 8 film of my children. Since they are too big now, I took my little girl Joe to play one of the characters. I thought it was a pity that my third Lou was not represented, even though in my memories of the cemetery in Cresseveuille she was not born, so I put a very charming bambina sitting on a drum. It’s nostalgic without being sad, well without the depressive side. »

Jane Birkin - 1974, in Cannes
Jane Birkin in her house on the Isle of Wight, 1972.

What is your Madeleine de Proust? 

 

« The problem with the Madeleines de Proust is that you don’t know until you take the first bite where it’s going to take you. You are being suddenly thrown backwards by a smell, a taste and you are then in a room with your great aunt or with your grandparents on the beach.

I am very nostalgic for my childhood, with my sister and brother in the Isle of Wight, for our wild escapades. It seems to me, and it is precisely because we can’t verify that perhaps our memories are even more wonderful. »

What is the main subject of this album? 

 

« It’s always about love, passion, love at first sight that doesn’t last. Either the regret of no longer being in a love at first sight story that you recognise in others, or the panic of being in that state – where you’re just afraid of losing – or evening couple scenes when you are waiting to hear things from the other person, who is already half asleep. »

Why the title « Oh sorry, you were asleep »?

 

« I have often found this sentence when I reread my diaries. I always had the same anxiety of being the only one who wasn’t sleeping, at boarding school or when I was 17 and married. At the end you don’t even say « is anyone awake? » for fear of the silence that follows. It seems to me that I have always been a very bad sleeper. So I have a crazy chance to do this job where you don’t have to wake up in the morning and look good at 8 o’clock in the evening. »

© Photo12/ AFP
Trone Fair Paris 1970 © Tony Frank

« I think it’s not just me, I think there are other people who will recognise themselves in these stories of insomnia and loneliness, in this album. If you see your inert partner next to you, it seems to you that it’s the right moment to ask a very important question like « do you love me » at 2am. I’m not sure he’s going to say yes… And besides it can’t be enough because it’s not only « do you love me » but « will you always love me » after that the answer is often not the one we were hoping for so it turns to vinegar, as we say in French. »

What do you do when you have insomnia?

 

« It’s a bit of a mess, I often read books. I had read something very interesting from Cléry during the confinement: the diaries of the people who were with Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and their children in the Temple Tower during the Revolution. It was fascinating to read. But that’s my English side I like historical accounts, anecdotes. I wonder why we don’t tell children more stories to make the lessons more fascinating. »

Jane’s readings

The artists who inspire you?

 

« It may be trite to say my own daughters, but it’s true. I can’t wait for Lou to write another record and Charlotte is in the process too. They are so different, really the sun and the moon, but for me fascinating. And musically it is always a surprise. »  

Charlotte Gainsbourg - Photo Markus pritzi
Lou Doillon

Your song of the moment?

 

 » « How’s your pain? » from Biolay has been in my head for a few days now, maybe because of the title. »

Comment est ta peine ?

The outing you are waiting for?

 

« I can’t wait to hear Eddy de Preto’s novelty, I loved his words. It carried me through an entire summer. I followed him everywhere, I took part in the same festivals as him. So I would run to his concert and lie down on the floor so that I could see his feet – so that I wouldn’t get in the crowd as I was going to play right afterwards. And I knew all his songs by heart. »

PULL MARINE

One artwork that makes you emotional?

 

« I reread Victor Hugo’s « Les Misérables » and I was delighted because I remembered very well the TV film Charlotte had made with Depardieu which was very good, she played Fantine. Before the covid, we were on tour and when we were stuck in the trains I would dive into it. I sobbed on the TGV about Fantine’s death… »

A place where you like going?

 

« I like going for a walk in Brittany on the beaches of the Pays des Abers . In Paris, it’s worth going to the Catacombs, for the joke, of course. There’s a rather strange museum in Maison-Alfort, the Fragonard museum where you can see corpses that have been preserved only with muscles, they’re flayed. »

« The English come in masses to see it, the French don’t know it’s there and maybe it disgusts them a bit. But the English are interested because we don’t have the equivalent at home. »

Your latest discovery?

« I’m in Brittany a lot and I met a guy who makes miniatures and models. His name is Ronan-Jim Sévellec, he makes scenes with furniture no bigger than the nail of my thumb. It’s not as cute as a doll’s house, there are stains underneath, he’s crazy. And so I went looking for him, I found him, I hope to work with him on a future project. »

Auto-portrait by Rembrandt

The artwork of your dreams?

 

« A auto-portrait by Rembrandt. He had a miraculous exhibition a long time ago in England, I think. It was just Rembrandt’s self-portraits, so you see him as a dashing young man, and you see him broken, having lost his wife, his son, his money at the end, with such a downcast face. You discover all the periods of his life. I would love to put this series of portraits in a corridor! »

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