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La Vie En Rose [DVD]
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A big screen treatment for one of France's most revered singers, Edith Piaf. From the slums of Paris to the limelight of New York, Piaf's life was a battle to sing and survive. Raised in poverty, Edith's unique voice and her passionate romances and friendships with the greatest names of the period - Yves Montand, Jean Cocteau, Charles Aznavour, Marlene Dietrich, Marcel Cerdan and others - made her a star all around the world.
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Cotillard gives the performance of a lifetime to intriguingly portray the famous French singer. Covering many decades, the film depicts Cotillard representing a women of considerably different ages, from a teenager right up to the forty seven years that Piaf died at. However, as Piaf was so ill, Cotillard actually was made up to look at least twenty years older than this. It was a stunning achievement from the make-up team to recreate Cotillard to look as old as this, and she showed her full range as an actress - she is utterly convincing portraying the singer at every age.
Cotillard's overall performance is astounding. She brings so much emotion and realism to the part that you cannot help but believe she is Piaf. Her portrayal of Piaf's stage fright, raw sense of humour, vulnerability and energetic singing is breathtaking - and the constant manic use of her deep, dark wide eyes is totally convincing. And, her anguished reaction to the death of Marcel in an airplane crash is incredibly emotive and realistic. It is unlikely that any other actress could have matched the ferocity and intensity delivered by Cotillard.
The film charts the course of the life of Piaf, starting as a child, drifting into prostitution, and her starting to sing. Her father had abandoned her early in her life, but he returns to enter her into the world of show business, all-be-it accidentally as she gives an impromptu rendition of "La Marseillaise" on a street corner, and continues singing - eventually being noticed by a nightclub owner, and her career develops from there. As her life progresses she has alcohol and morphine addiction problems, as well as arthritis, which decimate her physical and mental state.
One potential weakness in the film is the continual jumping backwards and forwards in time, showing Piaf in old age, and going back to the past to unfold key events. Although it worked well at times, the director Olivier Dahan may have over-reached himself by time-traveling too often. At times, the flow and momentum of the film was interrupted and disjointed. This non-linear technique was applauded by many of the critics, but for me it was too much.
Overall, Cotillard's performance masks any flaws in the movie. It ends with Piaf dramatically performing "Non, je ne regrette rien" at the Olympia - a spine-tingling finale to a champagne performance.
As a child, Piaf was abandoned by her mother with her father, who dumped her with his mother, who ran a brothel. One of the prostitutes took care of her until her father returned, and took her away in quite an emotional scene. She took to singing / performing in the street and one day, her and her father’s act wasn’t going so well. So on the spur of the moment she burst into song, singing "La Marseilles”, kick starting her wonderful career.
I can’t express how wonderful this movie is and how moved I was by Cotillard’s acting. She really played the role well and it was difficult to separate her from her character, as she played it so well.
It was interesting to learn about Piaf’s life, to see how she developed her style under coaching. She had it tough, not just as a child. Alcohol, drugs, love affair and we watch her get old, looking much older than her years. An incredibly moving film that I not to be missed.
There seems some controversy about the period 1939-45 being skimmed over in this film, unfairly to my mind. What you have is a bio-pic covering EP's early life and eventual end, yes there is a significant gap. If it were to be filled it would double the length of the piece. It could (fairly) amount to a film on its own, subject to significant controversy and detracting from this story. Either film would doubtless be worthy, but the other would not be this one, nor could it provide half the magic.
Foreign-language performances seldom get nominated for an Oscar, and almost never win. This one did, and with good reason. MC's performance as Piaff is truly great and thoroughly convincing, if she never got a single further part she could rest content on her laurels. The other Oscar awarded for makeup was well deserved and adds to the strength of MC's performance.
At approximately 140 minutes this film is longer than many but it is well worth setting aside an evening (allow a bit of resting time after, you are likely to need it) and the music alone is worth the admission price.
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