By Tony Paterson in Berlin
Her steamy Sixties hit Je t'aime made Jane Birkin a sex icon for a
whole generation, but now the British-born actress has admitted that
she never liked the song.
In an unusually candid interview the 61-year-old has revealed that
she felt used by her then husband, Serge Gainsbourg, the film
director and artist who wrote the song for her - and that she would
have far preferred a career as a nurse.
When it was first released in 1969, the chart-topping hit's copious
use of passionate heavy breathing was deemed so offensive that it was
condemned by the Pope, and cut from BBC playlists.
But Ms Birkin, who still sings and will bring a European tour to
Britain in March, told the German magazine Die Zeit that she was
treated like "a puppet" by Gainsbourg, and viewed their song as
evidence she was being used as a sex object.
Ms Birkin, who now lives alone in Paris, had daughters to both
Gainsbourg and her first husband, the composer John Barry, as well as
the director Jacques Doillon.
After Gainsbourg's death in 1991 she dedicated a concert to him, but
his pleasure in exposing her to risque publicity still rankles.
Recalling an incident when she was bound naked to a radiator for a
now-infamous photo shoot, she said: "It was Serge who tied me up for
this photograph. I didn't like it. I didn't even like the song Je t'aime."
The pictures were not her first brush with notoriety.
Three years before recording Je t'aime, Ms Birkin hit the headlines
by appearing naked in Michaelangelo Antonioni's scandalous cult film
Blow Up, set in the swinging London scene which she came to exemplify.
Her job interview with the radical Italian director demonstrated both
the naive vulnerability and Sixties sexuality that made her a European star.
"I wasn't an actress, I was simply a little girl," she said. "But I
went there wearing a very short skirt."
When he started asking her questions, she said she broke down in
tears and "wanted to disappear immediately".
Then married to Mr Barry, who composed the James Bond theme music,
she confessed in the interview to feeling goaded into stripping for
the role when her husband dismissingly said: "You of all people! You
put all the lights out when we go to bed. You'll never do it!"
And for all her status as a sex goddess, the actress's own experience
of the sexual revolution was far from liberating.
While Mr Barry worked in America, the pregnant Ms Birkin was left in
Paris, where student protesters were rocking the city. "I waited for
him with my huge stomach. That was my sexual revolution," she said.