Film: La Vie En Rose (La môme)
Cast includes: Marion Cotillard (Nine), Sylvie Testud (The Château), Gérard Depardieu (Cyrano de Bergerac)
Writer/director: Olivier Dahan (La Vie Promise)
Genre: biographical drama/music (2007), French with subtitles
In brief: She was called “the voice of Paris.” In 1918 her father, home on leave from the army, takes Edith to live with her grandmother in a Normandy brothel. As a very sickly child, it seemed unlikely that she’d even survive childhood. When Edith is temporarily blinded by an eye infection, she learns to pray to Saint Theresa… and continues to pray to her throughout her life. As tough as life is in the brothel, it gets worse when her father comes back for her. In the next chapter, she becomes a street performer, belting out songs that amazed passersby who marveled at the large voice coming from such a small girl. As a young adult she’s discovered on the streets by Louis Leplée, a cabaret owner with connections to organized crime. She’s still a tiny little thing with a huge voice. Louis thinks she needs a stage name, so she becomes Edith Piaf. Piaf means sparrow.
Eventually she meets Raymond, who thinks she has talent and wants to train her. It’s not easy for Edith because, for the first time in her life, someone is asking her to do more than just belt out songs. Raymond works on her diction and her presentation, and finally he feels she’s good enough for a music hall premier. It’s an important turning point because she finally gets national exposure. Songwriters like her so much they want to write songs especially for the sparrow. But no matter how popular Edith becomes, her difficult childhood has left scars… bad teeth, bad posture, excessive alcohol use and eventually drug addiction. Somehow, the French love her so much they are willing to look beyond the rough edges. But in America, it’s a different story. Her American tours are met with limited success. Americans don’t really understand her, and she doesn’t understand them… which is OK because her heart is always in Paris.
La Vie En Rose doesn’t attempt to give us a chronicle of Edith’s whole life story. It skims over many of the years but focuses on the parts that give meaning to her musical career. Oscar winner, Marion Cotillard gives an unbelievable performance of Edith from age 20 to her death… when she looked far older than her 44 years. The story timeline jumps around, and it’s not always easy to follow the chronology. That said, we can certainly follow it well enough to enjoy the movie. The subtitles aren’t challenging and leave plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful visuals. A film about Edith Piaf may seem like a so-what, considering that she wasn’t especially embraced by most Americans during her lifetime. If you care anything about Piaf, Paris or music, this movie has a lot to offer. And if you never cared much about Edith Piaf in the past, you may acquire an appreciation of this iconic French songbird.
4 popped kernels
Popped kernels for the wonderful performance by Marion C, excellent script, production, music, historic interest. A true classic.