Biopic of the iconic French singer Édith Piaf. Raised by her grandmother in a brothel, she was discovered while singing on a street corner at the age of 19. Despite her success, Piaf's life was filled with tragedy.
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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
Piaf's tumultuous life receives a superb framework in this excellent biopic. I've read some criticism of Dahan's editing style which switches often to various parts of her all-too-brief life, but with a woman of such roiling emotions and dramatic upheavals, how could it not be so? The two things I found missing here were her WWII Resistance activities and her final marriage to a man twenty years her junior. But then again the film might have approached the three- hour mark and at nearly two and a half, you walk away feeling as though you witnessed a train wreck in slow-mo. Please do not let this prevent you from seeing an astonishingly fine recreation of a life that is so fully lived you cannot believe it. Piaf's magnificent, emotional singing is fully complemented by Cotillards balls to the wall performance. Heart and soul are in total sync here and Cotillard manages to age astonishingly well. This is a terrible tale of a child grotesquely abandoned emotionally by her parents. Piaf's will to live is inspiring even in the face of self-destruction that makes Judy Garland's own battles with alcohol and drugs seem minor in comparison. The parallels to both women are hard to ignore. The rest of the cast is first-rate, and the film beautifully evokes the eras covered in her life. Best of all there is the great Piaf recorded legacy which is well-handled here. There's no sense that Cotillard is not singing and that's a testament to the skill that suffuses this fine film. Excellent.
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