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An un-chronological look at the life of the Little Sparrow, Édith Piaf (1915-1963). Her mother is an alcoholic street singer, her father a circus performer, her paternal grandmother a madam. During childhood she lives with each of them. At 20, she's a street singer discovered by a club owner who's soon murdered, coached by a musician who brings her to concert halls, and then quickly famous. Constant companions are alcohol and heartache. The tragedies of her love affair with Marcel Cerdan and the death of her only child belie the words of one of her signature songs, "Non, je ne regrette rien." The back and forth nature of the narrative suggests the patterns of memory and association. Written by
Marion is spectacular but the film is needlessly melodramatic
I'm glad I went to see LA MOME, or LA VIE EN ROSE. I had a good time at the movies. After seeing it, I realized what a good life I have. But seriously, Marion Cotillard's performance is nothing short of spectacular, even if her performance borders on caricature. I realized that whatever Cotillard and the director were attempting to do, it was worth it and that includes the borderline caricatural acting. The only thing I thought went overboard was the melodrama. Edith Piaf's life is filled with tragedy. We are well aware of this but the filmmaker didn't need to dwell on it ad nauseam. Practically every scene in LA VIE EN ROSE is taken from the big book of melodrama.
It's hard to believe Edith didn't have one happy moment during her days as either a kid or a young adult. After 45 minutes of non-stop sadness, the film was laying it pretty thick. The best example of this was when Edith and her friend were eating at a restaurant. It was the first time we saw Edith eating a meal in a restaurant as a young woman. Just showing her enjoying her meal and chatting with her friend would have been fun to see but then Edith's estranged mother walks in, begging for food and money from her daughter and well, here we go again, more melodrama. The film needed more quiet moments to balance out Edith's albeit tragic life. The constant melo was at times off putting. Edith's life is remarkable enough without having to rely on easy melodrama to tell it. The end effect was like the director wanted to impress younger generations, who are unfamiliar with Edith, by showing her life as being more edgy than Courtney Love's life could ever be.
At the theater where I saw it, an old couple in front of me walked out halfway into the picture, visibly not pleased with the bleak representation of the beloved chanteuse. The director was obviously in love with the concept that great art emerges from tragedy/pain/suffering but he carried this concept to an unfortunate level.
My other critique of LA VIE EN ROSE is that the script forgot major aspects about her life. Of course they couldn't cover every aspect of her legendary life but forgetting to mention that Edith was the one who discovered Yves Montand or that she played a major part of the French Resistance was inexcusable. I understand that they wanted to create a specific portrait of her life. Making a biography is not easy thing to do. It can easily fall into two categories: it can be an exact "academic" portrayal of her life, which many find tedious and dull or it could have been a wildly inaccurate portrayal, made with many dramatic licenses, in order to be more entertaining. But in either case, an accurate, truthful portrayal of anyone's life is an impossibility and the director of LA VIE EN ROSE is conscious of this and deliberately avoided some things about Edith which would have conflicted with this portrait he wanted to create but the fact that Yves Montand didn't even figure somewhere in this portrait was, imo, very bizarre.
This brings another point: the film is so focused on Edith that all other characters are pushed in the background and we hardly know who they are. Edith's star is so bright that she eclipses everyone around her. This part didn't bother me that much because I realized the director wanted to focus only on Edith but it would have been nice to have known who was who.
But even with these weak points, I still recommend LA VIE EN ROSE. It's the type of film we rarely see these days: big, showy and remarkably depressing. Marion Cotillard should win awards after awards for her stunning portrayal. It's truly something to witness and it's worth the price of admission. And the music, of course, is great.
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