What the critics said ...


"Sfar makes the gutsy decision to give the boy an enormous, clingy alter ego, La Gueule or Ugly Face, a sort of giant talking potato with legs which lumbers after him. Twenty minutes in, Elmosnino takes over as the adult Gainsbourg and Ugly Face grows into a lanky, more elegant sidekick with preying mantis type limbs and a lengthy beak. (Doug Jones is excellent inside the mask and costume.)."


"Celle-ci devient bientôt un véritable alter ego, un personnage indépendant qui symbolise à la fois l'instinct créateur et le mauvais génie de Gainsbourg. Jouée par l'acteur américain Doug Jones - qui avait personnifié l'humanoïde aquatique de Hellboy ou Pan dans Le Labyrinthe de Pan - revêtu d'une tête en latex à l'appendice nasal géant, cette figure apporte une dimension poétique, tantôt tragique, tantôt humoristique, au film. C'est là la meilleure idée de Sfar."

"... soon becomes a true alter ego, an independent character who symbolizes at the same time the creative instinct and the wicked genius of Gainsbourg. Played by the American actor Doug Jones - who had personified the watery humanoïd in Hellboy and Pan in Pan's Labyrinth - covered with a latex head with a giant proboscis, this figure brings a poetic dimension, sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous, within the film. This is the best idea of Sfar."


"En présentant son film comme un "conte", Joan Sfar lançait cette fois-ci officiellement la promesse d'un récit prenant des libertés par rapport au genre potentiellement trop limitatif de la biographie si l'on veut explorer les démons d'un personnage et les représenter à l'écran. Ce qu'il fait ici même, sous la forme de deux marionnettes, l'une représentant la culpabilité d'être juif qu'éprouve Gainsbourg enfant face au régime nazi qu'il ne comprend pas, et l'autre représentant Gainsbarre alors qu'il n'est encore que Gainsbourg, interprétée dans ce dernier cas par l'excellent Doug Jones (Hellboy 1 & 2)."

"While presenting his film like a “tale”, Joan Sfar this time officially launched the promise of an account that took liberties compared to the kind that would potentially be too restrictive biographically if one wanted to explore the demons of a character and to represent them on the screen. Which is what he does here, in the shape of two puppets, one representing the difficulty of being Jewish that the young Gainsbourg faced while confronting a Nazi regime that he didn't understand, and the other representing 'Gainsbarre' ['La Gueule' - Ed.] who is still Gainsbourg, played in the latter case by the excellent Doug Jones (Hellboy 1 & 2)."


"There is something decidedly vampiric about the single most distinctive (and arguably most effective) element of Gainsbourg. “Every poet has a double,” we’re told early in the film, and the young Lucien Ginsburg finds his during the Occupation, shortly after obtaining his yellow Star of David.

"At first, the double is a roly-poly playmate, albeit a monster, his appearance based on an image from an anti-Semitic poster Lucien has seen. As Lucien grows older and becomes Serge, the double becomes a lean, diabolical creature (beautifully mimed by Doug Jones, who was the Faun in Pan’s Labyrinth), with a puppet head, glowing eyes, and a nose and ears even more exaggerated than Gainsbourg’s own.

"Also called La Gueule, the double pops up constantly in order to urge Gainsbourg to do what is best for his music — though that’s seldom good for his character. It’s he who spurs Gainsbourg to abandon first his painting, then his children; to sell his songs to Juliette Gréco by seducing her; to betray the trust of naïve France Gall; and so on. He’s like all the Hoffmann villains in one body."

BILLEVESÉES William V. Madison

"Unsurprisingly, Gainsbourg's visual style is vivid and memorable. Sfar utilises a number of imaginative storytelling devices, such as the constant presence of Serge's devious id (a brilliantly creepy Doug Jones) and a number of deliberately artificial sets that recall the director's beloved MGM musicals. "I don't want my life to look like real life I want it to look like a movie, so there's a lot of light and a lot of colour," he says. "The other thing is that I don't like it when a movie has the camera moving on the shoulder and you pretend that what you say will be more true because the camera is moving like you are a journalist and not a storyteller. My whole point is that you can give true emotion through fake image. This is clearly not a realistic cinema but I hope people really cry and I hope they really laugh.""

THESKINNY.CO.UK Philip Concannon

"In Sfar’s film, the adult Gainsbourg (a performance of uncanny verisimilitude by French stage actor Eric Elmosnino) is a Jekyll and Hyde-style creation whose inhibitions are unlocked by a grotesque version of himself with massive prosthetic nose and ears called La Gueule, brought ecstatically to life by lanky contortionist actor Doug Jones."


"The stand-out performance for me however came from Doug Jones – famed for his appearances in Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy films – as Gainsbourg’s rather surreal and devilish imaginary friend, simply known as ‘La Gueule’. An exaggerated self portrait of Gainsbourg, it represented the troubled artist’s inner demons while also becoming the driving force for his creativity and sheer debauchery throughout his entire life. Almost coming across as a 20th century Grimm fairy tale in certain scenes."

GEEKS.CO.UK Andrew Moore

" ... but whatever thoughts and feelings the actor keeps hidden tend to escape anyway, in the form of Sfar's most inspired invention. Throughout the film, Gainsbourg is followed by a strange, elongated figure with caricatured Semitic features protruding from his papier-mâché head – like a cross between Nosferatu and Frank Sidebottom. This is 'La Gueule' or 'Gainsbarre,' a personification of the singer's id, who is constantly whispering in his ear and leading him astray. He's a creepy and striking figure, and he is brilliantly played by Doug Jones, once again proving he is one of the most versatile and expressive physical performers around."

PHIL ON FILM Philip Concannon

"Without doubt, the most captivating conceit in the film is ‘La Gueule’ or ‘The Mug’, the Mr Hyde-type character who is visible only to Gainsbourg and accompanies him through the film as a hyper-visual illustration of his doubts and conflicted nature. A grotesque caricature emphasising the ears which earned him the nickname ‘The man with a cabbage for a head’ and his stereotypically Jewish nose, La Gueule is conjured into life by a cartoon Lucien draws as a boy and constantly reappears throughout the film. By turns compassionate – he brings a satchel of cigarettes to Serge’s hospital bed – and vicious in his criticism of Serge’s failings, he is brought to life by the extraordinary Doug Jones, best known for portraying both the Faun and the Pale Man in the esoteric Pan’s Labyrinth. His performance as the devil on Serge’s shoulder is arguably even more arcane and beguiling than either."

BEST FOR FILM John Underwood

"Gainsbourg (now played by dead ringer Eric Elmonsnino) morphs into a shy man, paranoid of his ugly face, and remains for the most part holed up in his dingy apartment learning the guitar. Haunted by his alter ego, La Gueule (Doug Jones), a monster figure that's an exaggeration of how Gainsbourg sees himself - massive nose, elongated fingers, ill-fitting suits, narcissistic - minces around, encouraging him to be true to himself. Urged by La Gueule, Gainsbourg dumps painting and throws himself into music.

" [ ... ] Gainsbourg (Vie Héroique) is always interesting to look at, as Sfar's visual sense can't be faulted. Elmosnino, backed up by a fun turn by Doug Jones, lends the biopic a certain unpredictable edginess."


"Notable too is Doug Jones (Hellboy’s Abe Sapien, and Pan’s Labyrinth’s disturbing Fauno) as The Mug, who works in tandem with make-up and effects to give the cartoon figure of La Gueule an aura that is both tender and sinister."

HEYUGUYS.CO.UK Ian Gilchrist

"The possibly divisive elements that truly set Gainsbourg apart from your standard music biopic, such as Ray or Walk The Line, include the utterly winning physical manifestation of Serge's deepest id called, self-deprecatingly, The Mug, as played by Doug Jones, who you may know better as Abe Sapien from Hellboy 2, or as the [ ... ] monster from Pan's Labyrinth."

THE SHIZNIT.CO.UK Christopher Ratcliffe

"The monster eventually morphs into La Gueule (the mug), a prosthetic caricature-like representation of Gainsbourg's alter-ego, complete with a hooked-nose and jug ears. La Gueule, masterfully played by Doug Jones, taunts Gainsbourg into drinking and smoking and leads him into all sorts of mischief, much to Gainsbourg’s eventual chagrin."

IMPULSEGAMER.COM George Constantin

"Doug Jones deserves special mention for his performance as La Gueule which he carried out with the same aplomb as he did for the creepy faun in Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and as one of the Gentleman monsters in ‘Hush’, the ‘silent’ episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer."


"A fantastical journey, Sfar takes us from boy to man introducing Gainsbourg’s alter ego La Gueule to illustrate his corrupt personality and mischievous nature – a grotesque puppet played handsomely by Doug Jones who should be used to dressing up by now having been the Pale Man in Pans Labyrinth. La Gueule coaxes Gainsbourg from his insecurities confirming the singer’s Casanova status and catapulting his schnozzle to superstardom."


"The alter ego who appears most in Sfar's film is La Gueule/Ugly Mug, a serpent thin figure with a huge puppet head that extends and parodies Gainsbourg’s prominent nose, heavy lidded eyes and massive bat ears. Ugly Mug is played (or should that be danced?) by Doug Jones - the athletic actor who also starred in Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy films."


"Once Eric Elmosnino takes over the role we see a man who on the outside shows no fear but on the inside becomes more and more fragile. A man who suffers romantic failings and doesn’t quite want to admit what he is actually searching for. A man who is followed by a figment of his imagination in the form of a giant (quite grotesque) puppet symbolising his ‘inner Jew’ and working with him and against him as a type of inner conscience. This puppet (played with wonderful grace by Doug Jones) is a surreal visual treat for the audience. It’s like watching a Dali painting dance before your eyes."

FILM SHAFT Alex Wagner


Home | Biography | Filmography | FAQs | News Archive | Photo Album | Media | Dougie Trivia | Contact