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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Richard E. Grant
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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 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.
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