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Kristin Scott Thomas,
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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
I adore it. Nothing else is there to be said, really. The acting, all round, is sensational, but the lead, Marion Cotillard's portrayal of Edith Piaf, is beyond words. More astonishing even, I'd dare to say, than what Bruno Ganz did with Adolf Hitler in Der Untergang (although Ganz had only a mass murderer and historical criminal to work with, while Cotillard was dealing with, pardon me for saying, the soul of an entire nation).
I would like to comment on the script. The little symbolic moments, full of grief, full of such a profound sadness...I have never seen this done so well. Certain elements of the story, a conversation or object, are only within the lasting of the film transformed from everyday, mundane stuff into everlasting symbols of affection, of redemption and personal torment.
You see, this is the strong point of the film - it tries to(and often it manages) make you cry because of her tough life, but at the end you are crying because of the good things that happened to her. They too, are over: Edith never even regrets the bad ones.
The music is a whole story on its own. I've loved Piaf for some years now, but, alas, I don't speak French, and now, at last, I have some context to place the songs into...and it breaks me. It really does.
I saw the movie yesterday, went home, and listened to Edith's albums for hours, and they meant so much...they spoke volumes.
Anyway, the direction is perfect, although there is one scene towards the end which has problems - it tells, for the very first time, of a rather important event in the much earlier years of the singer's life , and the event in question seems to be out of place, sort of neglected - as if it should have been dealt with an hour earlier. But this is only one tiny scene, and even it, in itself, is masterfully done. Everything else is flawless.
The cuts and the singing are blended brilliantly together. I was especially struck, which is strange, by the end credits: they are very unusual and touching for a movie which is this musical (find out why!).
Anyway, my deepest recommendations. See it, it is really excellent. It is dark and human and bright, and full of spectacular music.
It is the 20th century.
I fell in love with it.
You might too.
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