Slogan Review

Slogan is a cinematic post-script, of interest primarily (and to many solely) as the film that introduced Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin to each other. He plays Serge Fabergé, married with child and star of the ad world. She’s the 18-year-old who falls for his charms. The 90 minutes that make up Slogan’s running time are occupied solely by their affair. Plot, therefore, is at an absolute minimum – he wants to break into features, though blink and you’ll miss it; she wants him to break up his marriage – and so the film plays out as a series of hazy, soft focus scenes between the couple as they eat, drive, shop, lie in front of a log fire, run along a beach and visit the occasional touristic location. If this all sounds remarkably facile and sub-Lelouch then that’s because it is. Glossy, dated (and not in a way that reflects the time, but rather in a manner that reminds one of worst, vacuous stylistic tropes of the day) and instantly forgettable.

Admittedly Slogan should provoke much to intrigue and entertain. Director Pierre Grimblat was an esteemed adman himself – the second disc containing his efforts for Renault, Shell, Palmolive and Colgate amongst others – yet his screenplay lacks the requisite satirical bite. Motions are made in this direction and one-liners dropped, but they’re always toothless and obvious, especially to a 21st century audience. Similarly the onscreen affair is said to be semi-autobiographical – and its worth noting that Grimblat would provide the inspiration for Truffaut’s The Man Who Loved Women - but drowned in his glossy surfaces its hard to detect any depth or insight. Which is where Gainsbourg and Birkin should come in given their developing off-screen relationship at the time of the picture’s making, yet this too becomes seriously muted amongst the soft focus and fashion conscious trappings. Cultural historians wishing to discover why she fell for him, or vice versa, will come up short-changed. Just what made him so attractive? There’s certainly little sense of chemistry or charisma on display here which leaves Gainsbourg looking like a dirty old man and Birkin completely unknowable. You suspect that Grimblat wants us to fall for them as much as they do for each onscreen – that’s the narrative hook, if you will – though I, for one, was having none of it. Which perhaps makes Slogan some kind of Mr and Mrs Smith for the sixties – and will that Brad ‘n’ Angelina flick be getting a cultish reissue 30 years down the line hoping to snare in an unsuspecting public?

The Disc

Cult Epics’ Region 0 double-disc set would appear to be pretty much a transposition of the 2007 French edition. This means plenty of extras but sadly disappointment when it comes to the presentation. Hindered by yellow subtitles (though I’m unsure of the French disc’s colouring, if indeed it English subtitles were at all present) and PAL-NTSC conversion issues, Slogan no longer looks quite so pretty as Grimblat intended. The resultant interlacing is heavily apparent throughout whilst the print itself, though clean throughout, looks a little pale. Compare it to the clips which make up the theatrical trailer to see just how colourful they look there. There are plusses in the form of a crisp mono soundtrack, the fact that the subtitles are optional and a 1.55:1 aspect ratio that would appear to be roughly correct. But the flaws far outweigh them and those standards conversion issues are hugely detrimental.

Aside from the theatrical trailer (which sits alongside the main feature on disc one), all of the extras are housed on the second disc. The centrepiece is a pair of interviews with Birkin and Grimblat, the first chatting to them both, the second concentrating on the director. In each we find a surprising wealth of incidental trivia and anecdotage, from Melvin Van Peebles assisting on the script to Birkin’s difficulty with the English language. Understandably, though, Gainsbourg is the key talking point, so much so that Birkin soon forgets Slogan altogether as she speaks of their lengthy relationship.

Elsewhere the disc finds room for some French TV promo interviews from the archive (Birkin and Grimblat once more, plus Gainsbourg), a gushing introduction from author and former adman Frédéric Belgbeder, and a 12-minute cross-sampling of Grimblat’s TV commercials from the same era as Slogan. Unsurprisingly, some prove more entertaining than the main feature, particularly the high-octane spot for Shell’s stamp collection. As with Slogan, all extras come with optional English subtitles, again of the yellow variety.

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