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It is difficult to overstate the necessary calibre of a woman who was
raised in a filthy whorehouse, sung and slept on the street, travelled
with the circus, lost her child at 20, went blind for a time, was
wrongly accused of murder, struggled with a drug addiction and lost
other loved ones by the bucketload in her life, and still got up on
stage at the end of her life to sing "Je ne regrette rien". La Môme
documents each stage of Edith Piaf's life with creative direction and
an intense performance by its lead actress, Martion Cotillard.
Ultimately it is a film that curiously enough does not come down to acting or story so much as it owes everything to its direction by Olivier Dahan. Audiences have been divided thus far on his efforts as they are somewhat unorthodox, but I believe he has truly done something magical with what could have fallen prey to a by-the-numbers biopic approach. In La Môme, the continuity is clipped and fragmentary at several points in the film, with scene 2 melting into scene 1 as opposed to vice versa. The story of Edith seems to fledge itself around two or three story lines simultaneously her youth, her adulthood and her last days.
Marion Cotillard, a personal favourite of mine, is perfect at each of the aforementioned stages, having met the wonders of realistic make-up but also clearly having connected with the character of Edith Piaf. As a young singer she is fumbling and bird-like, but always with raw intensity behind her performance. As an old lady (although from what I understand she was never truly that old at the time of her death) she has transformed into something else a kind of loud, hysterical diva who is alternatively self-depreciative and overbearing, her youthful humility having been quenched by years of alcohol abuse and her bird-like body and gait having been crippled by rheumatism. Only once does Cotillard vaguely emerge from her character, and it is toward the end when Edith is sitting on a beach in California giving an interview. The rest of the film she is wholly chameleon-like and indistinguishable from la môme.
Certainly this type of tragicomic drama with all of its poverty-stricken episodes and heart-rending tragedies is primed to elicit an emotional response, but Dahan goes the extra mile in polishing the story for audiences. It truly is a beautiful work of art, coated with sweeping tracking shots á la Paul Thomas Anderson or Martin Scorsese blended with shakycam to capture the fast, fickle pace of the business, endlessly creative intercutting of continuity and breathtaking scenes after another. When Piaf's beautiful hands have been noted, a muted performance is given in which the camera only focuses on her theatrics and hand gestures. Yet the best scene takes place in Piaf's apartment some 2/3s into the film in which she is waiting for her lover Marcel to fly in from Morocco. I shall give no spoilers. The film is momentarily gray and depressing, only to jerk the audience away from the misery and lose itself in a blossom-strewn pictorial style whenever Piaf goes on stage.
La Môme is a one-woman-show in all respects, with Cotillard shamelessly relegating every other cast member to the background with her emotional intensity. But in all fairness supporting characters are not given much screen time in the film, seemingly floating away from the central story eventually, or dying in some tragedy, illustrating the lonely life of its titular singer. La Môme needs to be seen to be believed, for it unexpectedly floors all other musical biopics of recent years or indeed ever.
9 out of 10
I've just seen that movie tonight on a private screening. This is
really a great film, very moving. The directing is original and really
not academic. All the cast is incredible and Marion Cotillard IS Edith
Piaf... I can't find words to express what is more to me than a great
job. I couldn't believe that the film lasted 140 minutes, I thought I
was there just for an half an hour. That maybe the only bad point:
Piaf's life was so rich that maybe you want to know more about it and
wish that the film was longer, but at least it would have been a
Just run and watch it as soon as possible! Sorry if my English isn't good enough to express all the good feelings I have for that film.
It is a crime that most people in America do not know of Piaf or her
music. Or if they do it is thanks to the Grace Jones version of LA VIE
EN ROSE (which is not half bad).
Marion Cotillard as Piaf was a dream to watch... particularly when she played the older Piaf. Her pain, her loss came through exquisitely. And even the two actresses who played Piaf earlier in life were excellent. The director - Olivier Dahan - has been criticized (and rightly so) in other postings. But in the case of the 3 Piafs he has done his job well, creating the full character of the woman.
And for me the highlight was toward the end when Piaf sings NON,JE NE REGRETTE RIEN (NO REGRETS). The song written for Piaf is a summation of the film and her life. And for the first time in a VERY long time, I actually had tears on my face in a cinema.
That alone is a very high recommendation.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite an editing style that makes a hash of conventional chronology,
40-year-old Dahan's biopic of Edith Piaf is a film that astonishes.
Beautiful cinematography and rich (though uneven) mise-en-scene
contribute, with a solid supporting cast including Sophie Testud (as
Piaf sidekick Momone), Pascal Greggory (as faithful manager Louis
Barrier), Emmanuelle Seignier (as Titine, the prostitute who became her
surrogate mother), and Gérard Depardieu (as the man who first
recognized the magnitude of her talent) and crowned with a
spectacular lead performance by Marion Costillard that's both
go-for-broke and precisely accurate right down to the fingernails.
La Môme Piaf, the kid sparrow, born Édith Gassion and so re-named by Louis Leplée (Depardieu's character), emerges as in intense, suffering, passionate spirit, a believer in love and Saint Theresa (restorer of her eyesight) who exemplifies the image of the doomed artist. Things are turbulent from the start and never stop being that way. As we see the young Piaf, she's abandoned by her street-singer mother, raised in a brothel, almost goes blind, is ripped away from her surrogate mother to tour in a circus with her father and begins to sing when accompanying him as a street-performing contortionist. The crowd wants her to do something, so she sings the Marseillaise in a simple ringing voice and a star is born. But she's not out of the gutter till fashionable cabaret owner Leplée whisks her off the street and onto his stage to be discovered in turn by a composer and a radio impresario and by then she's already a heavy drinker. Drugs and tragedy accompany the growing fame in this whirlwind tale that runs in circles.
As the film shifts back and forth vertiginously between Piaf's last days (at only 47!) one sustained story is her love affair with French boxing champion Marcel Cerdan (a handsome and appealing Jean-Pierre Martins) that begins when both are in New York. This tender and sweet interlude in the maelstrom ends tragically when Cerdan dies in a plane crash heading back to New York see her. Piaf acts out her grief spectacularly before a full audience of friends, hangers-on, attendants, and handlers. Unlike the realistic sets of the early life, the New York ones are symbolic and stagy.
We see a jumble of happy moments and sad, triumphs and disgrace. Some things are omitted Piaf's actions during the Occupation; her marriage late in life to a very young Greek singer. After the plane crash took away her married boxing champion lover and she was in a car accident it's suggested she was never far from the morphine needle, but we're missing specifics of her drug addiction and its effects on her health. Apart Cerdan, there aren't many details of her loves and marriages. We flash-forward to one of many onstage collapses and a period of convalescence when the singer looks more like an old woman than a 40-year-old and moves like a stuffed mummy. That last triumphant performance at Paris' grand music hall the Olympia one of her stamping grounds in her days of fame is cancelled even by her, but then when a composer plays a new song for her, "Je ne regrette rien," she says it's her, she must rise to sing it and she's inspired to go ahead with the Olympia concert and the song what became her final anthem.
Even though Dahan has said he doesn't hold to the idea that misery is a necessary ingredient of art, his version of the Piaf story is never far from that commonplace romantic association. Cotillard brings the singer powerfully to life, but one wishes the unremittingly tumultuous film granted Piaf a few peaceful everyday moments, a quiet sit-down for a coffee and a cigarette, a dinner without being drunk.
Even though there are place names and dates flashed on screen to help us wade through the meandering chronology, the film gives no very clear sense of the shape of the life. How much did her existence change when she became an icon? Was there any sustained period when she was famous, healthy, and happy all at the same time? Did she really have affairs with Aznavour, Montand, Marlene, et al., as rumors say?
"The narrative had to be impressionist, not linear," Dahan has commented. Certainly this isn't studied, analytical film-making but, as Dahan's remarks suggests, the wildly impressionistic kind. Dahan's last film was the nightmarish Crimson Rivers II; his background is adventurous but not altogether distinguished. He's done music videos, which may help explain the editing style. That editing is such a whirlwind on her deathbed we go back to her childhood and moments or adult triumph with some remarkably cunning elisions between that when the final Olympia performance of "Je ne regrette rien" comes, we're wrung out. It is in the closing sequence leading up to this finale where the delirious editing style finally begins to make good sense, but such warped chronology doesn't sustain well over two hours and twenty minutes, and one wishes it had been used more sparingly early in the film so it would be more climactic at the end.
La Vie en Rose/La Mome may leave one with lots of questions and a few doubts, but its emotional power is supported by good sound and image. Even in its cardboard New York sequences, the film is glowing and beautiful to look at. The singing is a seamless amalgam of enhanced Piaf recordings and the spot-on work of voice imitator Jil Aigrot, with exceptionally convincing lip-synchs done by the tireless and really remarkable Marion Cotillard. Whatever you may conclude about this overwhelming, chaotic film it really doesn't want to give you time to think you're going to grant that Cotillard delivers one of the most remarkable star performances ever in a singer-biopic. This will make you weep.
I saw the film almost a month ago, when it was released here in Israel.
I like Edith Piaf's songs very much, and the movie makes you believe
that a woman who gave us those songs was the one we see on the screen.
Marion Cotillard is superb in this role, her heroine is vulnerable,
doomed and dignified at the same time. I don't agree with those who say
her performance is melodramatic, because the singer WAS very emotional
and even melodramatic (though in a perfectly natural way) in real life
too (as all the biographers remark).
One thing about the movie that annoyed me a little was the switches of time frames. I understand the purpose of it. During the first 15 minutes we get to see the sickly little girl, then Edith Piaf's days of glory and' finally, her last days, when she was a tortured creature and looked like a 70-year old woman. So even while living through the singer's happiest days we never forget how it would end quite soon. But sometimes these switches seem unnecessary and distracting. The other flaw is that a viewer must be well-familiar with the singer's biography, otherwise it would be difficult for one to understand certain moments in the film.
I don't have much to say about the director's masterful work, honestly there is none. The director had the story of life, he had the music and the haunting voice of the great singer. The latter is what makes most of the emotional impact. But I would recommend this movie sincerely, Marion Cotillard's acting alone would make it worth watching, and there are other beautiful things in it as well. The movie never seems too long, and its last minutes are very emotional, when Edith Piaf is led to the stage, she can hardly walk, and then she starts to sing 'No regrets' and transforms completely.
...a song about a singer.
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.
I saw this film at the French Film Festival in New York in April, and the memory of it still leaves me shattered. It is a brutally candid portrayal of Edith Piaf, who was known as La Mome, or the Little Sparrow. She had a violent, drug-filled and tragic private life, making Billie Holiday look like a Catholic school girl by comparison. (She was proud of being the same age as Holiday, and often referred to her in conversation.) Marian Cotillard is simply amazing in the role. She captures Piaf's looks perfectly, and her brushes with illness as well as her fame are vividly portrayed. Gerard Depardieu makes only a brief appearance, but the rest of the cast does a fine job. The more I have thought about this film, the more it reminds me of 8 1/2, and wonder if others will see the similarities. The only thing that keeps me from giving it a 10 is that by the end, the audience is completely wrung out, and there seems to be a one-note aspect to it. Perhaps a bit of editing would have done the trick. In any case, this is head and shoulders above most summer fare and any film or cabaret music buff will enjoy it.
I disagree with the previous comment regarding Olivier Dahan's direction, which was handle in my humble opinion, with such an eye for detail and created a wonderful, caring homage to Edith Piaf. I do believe that the chemistry between Mr. Dahan and the heart rendering performance by Marion Cotillard is what made the story riveting and visually stunning. Piaf's scattered "memories" are just what the film examines as she starts to dissect and remember fragmented moments in her life, and sometimes "in life" characters, relationships, lost loved ones are suddenly shifted and gone from one's perspective without any notice. The use of "just" the right amount of music, was done superbly as to not just make this a "concert type" musical biography but an exciting joy ride through an era long since past. By the time the credits were rolling both of my shirtsleeves were damp with tears of sorrow and tears of joy in discovering much more about such a remarkable, true modern day diva. I highly recommend this film.
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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