When asked about the Serge Gainsbourg influence, Beck responded with the following:
"I've always listened to him. When Air came out, some of the other mellow (French) pop musicans I felt like it was their territory. I've been listening to Gainsbourg for years and I've always wanted to do something influenced by him. To me, a record like Melody Nelson has so many possibilities.
But when we were making the record, I wanted to do something with strings that was very dramatic. And we were listening to that. And we ended up with something that sounded exactly like it. I didn't intend that. But we did it and it came out so good, in my opinon, it sounded like a tribute. But it transcended that. And it was a good song. I remember, my producer is very particular about that kind of thing. I was like: 'I don't know, can we put this out?' And he said: 'It's fine. It's a good piece of work.' But yeah, I love the way Gainsbourg uses the orchestras. It's not afraid to be dramatic and bold and emotional. There's something really cool about the sound too."
[I know I'm a terrible person for not properly referencing the quote. I can't find the original context in which it appeared. If someone knows, and has the audacity to pipe up, tell me so I can put my anxieties to rest. God help us all if the quote is a fabrication.]