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la vie en rose,  biographical film, biography, review, biopic

La Vie En Rose (2007) 

Edith Piaf had a short but eventful life, so much so that director and co-writer Olivier Dahan struggled to fit it all into one film. To overcome this, he has remarkably omitted her career during WWII, and juxtaposed the rest of her life in a non-linear fashion. For the majority of La Vie En Rose, he handles this beautifully as events from a certain time segue seamlessly into others from a different period. Unfortunately, he fails to maintain this momentum for the entirety of the film. Scenes of heartbreak jar against comical interludes while significant milestones are crammed in at the end as if by afterthought.

The first image presented is a frail Piaf belting out a song in 1959 while an ambulance stands by, and things don’t look much better when the film flashes back to 1918. Abandoned by her parents, Edith is raised in a brothel where she momentarily goes blind. Though the child is much loved and cared for by the sex workers, Piaf’s father takes her on the road to support him while he performs as a travelling acrobat. Soon it is Piaf who is singing for her supper on the streets of Paris when discovered by a nightclub owner who gives her the name La Môme Piaf (The Little Sparrow).

It is at this point that Marion Cotillard assumes the lead role, and she submits herself to it entirely. Aided by Academy Award winning makeup, Cotillard compellingly portrays Piaf from her early twenties till her death at the age of 47. Though the span of years may be short, the range is startling as she fluctuates between imprudent ingenue, erratic drunk, besotted lover, feeble addict and so much more. It is a performance that almost single-handedly rescues the film from its narrative lapses.

In addition, Cotillard flawlessly lip syncs to original recordings of Edith Piaf and Jil Aigrot, but Dahan’s showcasing of Piaf’s songs is less than ideal. Many of them are fragmented, reduced to background noise or meet a premature end.  The one exception is ‘Non, je ne Regrette rien’… regrettably.

Marion Cotillard, Edith Piaf, Jean-Pierre Martins, Marcel Cerdan, Caroline Silhol
Bruno Coquatrix, Michel Emer, Charles Dumont, Jacques Pills, Tony Zale

Titine, the sex worker who cares for Édith, is a fictitious character.

Marlene Dietrich, Alban Casterman, Charles Aznavour, Marie-Armelle Deguy, Marguerite Monnot
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