La Vie En Rose. Move review by Ester Molayeme
Highlights in the life of Edith Piaf, one of France’s most beloved singers, are depicted in the feature La Vie En Rose, named after her signature song, and the 1998 Grammy Hall of Fame Award.
Born in dire poverty to her street singer mother, Italian born Annetta Giovanna Maillard (Clotilde Courau), and to her circus performer father, Louis-Alphonse Gassion (Jean-Paul Rouve), young Edith (Manon Chevallier) was left in the care of her paternal grandmother who run a brothel. There, the women took great liking of Edith, and when she lost her sight to a severe case of conjunctivitis, they pooled their money together and took Edith to a pilgrimage honoring Saint Thérèse de Lisieux. Edith later regained her sight and developed a strong faith, praying often throughout her life’s ordeals.
At fourteen, Edith (Pauline Burlet) joined her father’s acrobatic street performances, in singing. Later Edith (Marion Cotillard, 2005 Cesar Award winner) took off singing on her own at the Pigalle district of Paris. There, she was discovered by nightclub owner Louis Leplée (Gérard Depardieu) who, reflecting Edith’s diminutive height (4’8’’), nicknamed her La Môme Piaf, The Sparrow Kid.
Some of Piaf’s recordings have never been out of print. A few of these beautiful original recordings are featured in the film, including ‘La vie en rose’ (1943), ‘Hymne à l’amour’ (1949), ‘Milord’ (1959), and “Non, je ne regrette rien’ (1960), with her signature and unique voice described by Marlene Dietrich (Caroline Silhol) as “the soul of Paris.”
The story is told in a non-linear fashion, to associate “ideas or images, like when memories flash through your mind” explains writer-director Olivier Dahan.
The movie portrays the greatest love of her life, world champion boxer, Marcel Cerdan (Jean-Pierre Martins). However, omitted were many of her celebrity acquaintances and lovers. “It wasn’t about running through her hits and, even less so, through the long list of her celebrity acquaintances and lovers” states Dahan, “I focused on the people who helped her built herself, which is why we see her manager and his assistant, but not Montand, Aznavour and other greats of her age. I was interested in the private Piaf, the woman, not the public icon.”
The same goes for Piaf’s link to the French Resistance. “Telling her life story didn’t interest me per se. The events I show help to built up the portrait. I always tried to be truthful, respectful, connecting with her, without idealizing her. She never idealized herself or the art” states Dahan.
Though her health was declining, it was singing that kept Piaf going. She fought against all odds, performing up to the age of 47, her last year of life.
In the role of Edith Piaf, Marion Cotillard delivers the performance of her lifetime. She captures Piaf’s essence and intensity, and brings her to life through speech, body movements, and gestures.
Engaging are the outstanding performances that, along with charming Gérard Depardieu’s (Louis Leplée), include Sylvie Testud (Momone), Pascal Greggory (Louis Barrier), Emmanuelle Seigner (Titine), Jean-Paul Rouve (Louis Gassion), Clotilde Courau (Anetta), Jean-Pierre Martins (Marcel Cerdan), Catherine Allegret (Louise), Marc Barbe (Raymond Asso).
Well directed, the film stands out in its artistic presentation. Aided by Tetsuo Nagata’s chiaroscuro lighting, and the piano music transitioning the picture, scenes effectively move and powerfully communicate meaning beyond the picturesque images. In addition, Olivier Raoux’s superb set designs well differentiate time and place, from handcarts in Piaf’s rural childhood, to limousines in her urban adult life.
La Vie En Rose is a tribute to a legendary singer who regretted nothing.
-Rating: PG 13
-In French with English subtitles
-Release Date: June 8, 2007