a monthly look at the faces
that have made history


Charlotte Gainsbourg isn't a conventional beauty. "I don't like my face—my nose, my hair, my mouth, everything," she has said. But it's a mesmerizing face nonetheless, angular and elfinlike. And when it's dressed up with someplace to go, it's spectacular—like the rest of her, the epitome of Parisian cool.

A girl who looks like a boy who looks like a girl, who acts, sings, models, and wears head-to-toe Balenciaga, Charlotte is the love child of English model-turned-actress Jane Birkin and the musical provocateur Serge Gainsbourg. Her upbringing was peppered with notoriety. Dad was France's most adored singer-songwriter, who occasionally recorded songs with X-rated content (1984's controversial duet with his daughter, "Lemon Incest," still sends a chill down the spine), and her mother was doing full-frontal nude scenes in Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 film Blow-Up long before Hermès named its classic handbag after her.

But Charlotte has abstained from stoking the public appetite for shock-and-raw—her performance in Lars von Trier's sadomasochistic Antichrist notwithstanding. Instead, she captivates with a shy, introspective manner, her effortless sense of style keeping her well below the radar yet perpetually in the fold. She'll be at the center of it all later this month when von Trier's latest flick, Melancholia, in which she co-stars with Kirsten Dunst, premieres at Cannes.

—S.S. Fair

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