Jane Birkin: Made in England, Forged in France

Besides her success as a singer—by no means a huge success, but in attracting a loyal worldwide fanbase—Birkin has had a burgeoning career as an actress, expressing similar airs on screen as she did in music: an unadorned, natural beauty; Seemingly indifferent behavior, hides a melancholic core.

In 1969, the year “Slogan” was released, Birkin had a supporting role in Jacques Deray’s now incendiary cult thriller “La Piscine” alongside Alain Delon and Romy Schneider. With “La Piscine” and popular comedies such as “La Moutarde Me Monte au Nez!” (1974) and “La Course à l’Échalote” (1975), she could have continued to mine her charm and sweet accent for a comfortable and predictable acting career. But in typical Birkin fashion, she made a surprising style turn by rocking Ginsburg’s sexy debut. “Je T’Aime Moi Non Plus” (1976), in which she portrayed an effeminate waitress who has a somewhat complicated relationship with a gay man played by Joe D’Alessandro, Andy Warhol and the regular Paul Morrissey.

For much of the 1970s and early 1980s, Birkin alternated between recording Gainsbourg records and appearing in mainstream films, including Death on the Nile (1978), which featured the kind of international star buffet that blockbusters catered at the time: among its co-stars was Peter Ustinov, Bette Davis, David Niven, Mia Farrow, and Angela Lansbury.

What led to another twist in her career was that after Gainsbourg, Birkin had an affair with the uncompromising director Jacques Doillon. In 1984, she starred in his film The thriller “La Pirate”, which is full of fervor and cruelty as Alma, who is torn between her husband (played by Birkin’s brother Andrew) and a woman (Marushka Detmers). It felt like a new Jane Birkin, inhabiting her body in an almost dangerously uninhibited way — and it earned her the first of three César Award nominations.

The following year, she appeared in the play Marivaux directed by the influential Patrice Chéreau at his Nanterre Theatre. Despite her fear, her performance was a success, and Birkin continued to appear on stage, alternating, as was her custom, between avenue fare and Euripides’.