If you’re under 50, and neither Israeli nor French, chances are the subject of docu “Mike Brant: Laisse-moi t’aimer” won’t mean a thing. For fans of the singer, who carved a brief but glittering career in Europop before defenestrating to his death in Paris in 1975, docu is an immensely detailed nostalgia trip back to an age when popular music had melodies, and drugs and social rebellion had yet to become the norm. General and younger viewers may feel the film’s length is unmerited, especially given its lack of a strong perspective on its subject. Winner of the best docu at the 2002 Jerusalem fest, pic looks set for sales to specialized Eurowebs following its international preem in Cannes.
Moishe Brand was born in Cyprus, grew up in Haifa and at an early age became obsessed by singing, with Elvis a big hero. Determined to make a name for himself, he moved via the club circuit (with gigs in Tel Aviv and the Shah’s Tehran) to Paris, where producer Gerard Tournier and composer Jean Renard recognized his talent (big voice, handsome looks) and rechristened him Mike Brant. His first French public appearance was singing Renard’s “Laisse-moi t’aimer” (Let Me Love You) at Midem, Cannes, in 1970, and a star was born.
Leery of returning to Israel, where he had also become famous, he was finally dragged back to his homeland by singer Yaffa Yarkoni, completing an identification with the country that later resulted in him singing for the troops during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. However, his bread and butter was back in France, and it was there, singing in a language he was slow to master, that his career was based.
Brant’s career followed the familiar, if accelerated, path of an artist being unable to handle success. After splitting with Renard to sing other songs (“Qui saura” made him mega) and write his own material, Brant teamed with brothers Hubert and Georges Baumann as his managers.
But it was his subsequent association with shady Israeli impresario Simon Wajntrob that led to his slow crack-up, attempted suicides and growing fits of depression. He plummeted to his death on a Paris sidewalk on April 25, 1975, aged 28.
Docu helmer Erez Laufer, who’s worked with Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker (“The War Room”), does an astounding job in tracking down everyone from Brant’s first love, passing girlfriends, session musicians and even a modern fan club reunion in order to bring Brant back to life on film. Best value, however, is from Brant’s brother, Zvi, and the Baumann Bros., all of whom attest to Brant’s love affair with singing and his discovery that celebrity is a path that leads nowhere if it’s your sole goal in life.
In that respect, the film offers no startling discoveries or conclusions, and Brant himself emerges as an uninteresting character outside what he did best. On stage, however, he had charisma in spades and a rich voice to match — a kind of Francophone Engelbert Humperdinck, whom he mentions as a singer he likes.
Given the shortage of scandal in his life, and the direct path of his career, film could easily take trimming by 20 minutes: only when Wajntrob (who later died of two mysterious bullet wounds) enters the picture does the docu really start to become involving.
Copious archival footage and personal pics are of high quality throughout.