French film stars pay ultimate farewell to British-born actor and singer Jane Birkin

Stars of the French screen on Monday turned out to bid a final farewell to the British-born actor and singer Jane Birkin who died earlier this month after charming France for decades with her style and panache.

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The coffin of Birkin was carried into the Saint-Roch church in Paris by her daughters Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon, both also celebrated singers and actors, while a crowd of onlookers also gathered outside.

Those present inside the church included French screen legends such as Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni and Isabelle Huppert as well as fellow British actor Charlotte Rampling, who has also won a major following in France and starred in French-language movies.

© France 24


They were joined by French first lady Brigitte Macron and Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak.

Birkin was catapulted to fame through her turbulent relationship with legendary singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg and her heavily accented French, which became one of her signatures in her adopted home.

With her flared jeans, mini dresses and distinctive fringe, Birkin was the ultimate “It girl” in the 1970s.

The flowers covering the square in front of the church were evidence of the affection with which Birkin was held in France, her adopted country even if she never turned away from her British and especially London roots.

Hundreds watched on a big screen outside in a final tribute.
Hundreds watched on a big screen outside in a final tribute. © Geoffroy van Der Hasselt, AFP

The family had made clear that access to the inside of the church was only allowed for close family and friends but a giant screen was set up outside to allow the wider public to follow.

Her voice choking with emotion, Charlotte Gainsbourg paid tribute to her mother as she addressed the congregation saying: “Now I am an orphan”. Her father Serge Gainsbourg died in 1991.

“I see already the emptiness that she has left behind, she is my mum, our mum,” she added.

Doillon said: “Mum, thank you for all these adventures, thank you for not being ordinary, reasonable or docile”.

French actor Catherine Deneuve was among the screen legends present.
French actor Catherine Deneuve was among the screen legends present. © Julien de Rosa, AFP

Many of the hundreds gathered outside had tears in their eyes. Marie-Pierre Frapart, 63, said she had “come to pay tribute to our little Englishwoman”.

Birkin, who had been suffering from health problems in recent years that had forced her to cancel concerts, was found dead at her Paris home on July 16, aged 76.

French President Emmanuel Macron called Birkin “a complete artist” who “sang the most beautiful words in our language”.