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Monday, July 2, 2007

LA VIE EN ROSE (2007) - Olivier Dahan

Biopics of famous musicians seem to be a sure thing for filmmakers these days. After chronicling the lives of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line and Ray Charles in Ray, we now have the life of Edith Piaf presented to us by Olivier Dahan in La Vie En Rose. La Vie En Rose is a biopic with subtitles, no less, which isn't really surprising as Piaf is probably France's most famous export after cheese and surrendering.
I walked into this film knowing a little about Piaf. Her most famous song, Non, je ne regrette rien, is instantly recognisable, and is a fantastic song, but other than this, and one or two semi-familiar songs, I was a newcomer. Piaf was born to poor parents. Her father was a circus contortionist, and spent time in the French army in the First World War. Her mother struggled as a singer, singing for pennies on the streets. Piaf spent time with her grandmother, who was the madame of a whorehouse. She lived briefly with her father in the circus. She was discovered and made famous throughout France. Went to the US and hit the big time after an encounter with Marlene Dietrich. She fell in love, became addicted to drugs and then came her downfall.

Pretty brief description of the life of Edith Piaf, not doing her immense talent justice. But being brief is all I feel like being after the extremely long and drawn out biopic I just witnessed. If the movie is true to what actually happened, Piaf's life was pretty tragic. While she was very talented, her penchant for drink and drugs took it's toll on her body and killed her before her time. She seems to have been a very flamboyant character, and actress Marion Cotillard certainly gives it socks playing the singer. The actor is the key to the biopic's success, and Cotillard is excellent as Piaf. However, the film suffers from a screenplay that jumps about in time and takes forever to get through the story. We see Piaf as an old lady, a child, a middle-aged woman, a teenager, an old woman again, then in her twenties, and so on and so on. I understand Dahan probably didn't want to do a straightforward biopic, but the jumps in time make the film a little difficult to sit through. And because of this, we also get the impression that huge chunks of Piaf's life are ignored. People jump in and out of the story without any introduction, and you're left wondering who these people are and where they've come from.

While certainly not as good as James Mangold's Walk the Line, La Vie En Rose is certainly an interesting portrait of an artist I barely know about. However, due to some dodgy scripting and directing, the film will certainly test some audience members. But Cotillard's powerhouse performance is definitely worth checking out.


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