La Vie en Rose (2007)
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.
Born into poverty and raised in a brothel, Édith Piaf manages to achieve worldwide fame. Though her extraordinary voice and charisma open many doors that lead to friendships and romances, she experiences great personal loss, drug addiction and an early death.
While her father Louis was away during World War I, Édith Piaf, born Édith Gassion, spent her formative years with her alcoholic mother who earned a living as a street singer, then in her paternal grandmother's brothel. After the war, Louis resumed his life as a street acrobat and took Édith with him on the road. She was a sickly child whose health was always compromised. Despite her frailty, she had a powerhouse of a singing voice like her mother, and was certain she would be a famous singer one day. She got her first big break when cabaret owner Louis Leplée heard her singing on the street (she who was then doing this "work" for her pimp boyfriend, Albert, in exchange for him not forcing her to work as a prostitute), he who gave her the name Piaf, which translates into sparrow. Taken under the strict direction of vocal coach Raymond Asso, Édith achieved greater fame singing in concert halls first in Paris, then throughout Europe and the United States. At various times, her career was threatened by alleged connections to the mob in association with a murder, morphine and alcohol addiction used initially to relieve pain associated with injuries sustained from a serious car accident, and ill health due to her general constitution. In her personal life, she was linked romantically to already married middleweight boxer Marcel Cerdan and singer Jacques Pills, the latter to who she was married.
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.
- As a small child, Edith Piaf is crying on a stoop, near some other children on the streets of Paris. Her mother stands across the alley singing, panhandling for change. Edith's mother writes a letter to her child's father, the contortionist, who is in the trenches of World War 1. She explains that she's dropping Edith off at her mother's so she can pursue the life of the artist.
He returns to Paris and scoops up Edith, covered in insect bites and sores, from under the blanket of a bed in a delapidated house. He drops her off at his mother's house, a bordello madame in Brittany.
There, Edith is adopted informally by Titine, a young troubled redhead who sings to Edith, plays with her, and walks the streets of their small town. Titine and another prostitute are Edith's closest friends and they are repeatedly demeaned and abused by brothel customers. Screams of pain ring out one night, as Titine rushes down the hall to help her friend, who explains, "I let him play doctor and use his instruments on me." Edith enters the room, saying she cannot see. A doctor identifies it as keratitis, an inflammation of the eyes, and her eyes are wrapped in cloth. Titine and her visit St. Therese at Liseux, pray for vision. Later, as the members of the brothel pin up laundry in the backyard, Edith slowly pushes off her banage and reveals her eyes, and blinks up at the sky.
Edith's father is discharged from the WW1 forces and takes Edith to live with him, at loud protests by Titine, who must be held back while he bundles Edith into a cart. Her father works in the circus as a contortionist. He cannot stand the manager, so they leave, performing on the streets of Paris. At one point a passerby asks if she is part of the show, and with prompting by her father to "do something," she sings the Marseillaise. More crowds gather around her and are obviously moved.
She makes a friend from a factory job, Mômone, and they wander the streets, glugging from a bottle of wine, and Edith occasionally sings for their supper, quite literally. After singing a few songs and getting a meal in a bistro, her mother approaches her for some change. When Edith gives her a centime (or something that small), her mother yells at her that her daughter will never help her either. She also continues to yell "I am an artiste!" Her mother is grabbed by the waiter, and Edith and her friend quickly leave.
Edith and Mômone go to a local bar and pay Albert, a slick dark haired pimp, cash and receive warnings that if she doesn't pull in more money he will "have her open her legs like the rest of my women."
Singing on the street in the Montmartre neighborhood, a man approaches her and introduces himself- he is Pere Leplee, who has a lower and upper class nightclub. She sings for him the next day, and his gay lover, bartendress, and other workers at her club are instantly appreciative of her skills, though the bartendress is quite jealous. Pere LePlee changes her name to Piaf, a colloquialism for Sparrow, because her original name is too long and off-putting. He introduces her at his show a week later, with new clothes, and a new song. His audience is also appreciative, and he introduces her to the president of the radio in Paris. She leaves the club quickly, despite the acclaim, and goes to the local bar where she passes Albert a large bundle of cash, and he returns one bill.
Mômone is still in her entourage, and on New Years', 1935, she meets her next Pygmalion-esque manager, yet she does not follow up with him at all, simply pockets his business card. She and Mômone drink buckets of champagne and are rude and loud to almost everyone in their milieu. When one woman approaches to compliment Edith, she responds, "Your face is like a bag!"
Afterwards, Pere Leplee is shot, and everybody thinks it is Edith's role in introducing him to the mafia, namely, the pimp Albert, that causes his murder. She is interviewed at a raucous cafe with a ton of paparazzi. She tries to sing at a low grade cabaret with Albert accompanying on accordion but she is shouted off the stage.
In utter despair, she finally meets up with her next savior, and she meets a jewel of her career- Marguerite, a talented songwriter and accompanist. He discovers her "beautiful hands," and teaches her to gesture with them while singing. He also emphasizes enunciation, formal wear, and comportment. Before their first concert at a music hall, "Not a cabaret," the manager intones, she has a fierce bout of stage fright and is huddled in the dark in her dressing room, thirty minutes after curtain call. He advises her finally to "stand up," and she manages to shake off this fright. This performance is a resounding success.
She is in a large flat in Paris with her entourage, reading a Cocteau play, and joking with Mômone who is dressed as a man in this scene. She puts off the conductor of the orchestra despite the performance being in "48 hours," she invites in a Corporal who asks if she will perform his song. She listens and immediately embraces it, performing it the next night. (This is the trailer)
She travels to New York for more performances. She meets Marcel, a fellow French national boxer competing for the World Champion title abroad. They first dine at his "local spot" a diner where she gets a pint of beer and a pastrami sandwich. She teases him that this is not a date, and they end up at a very fancy restaurant, where she orders the wine and entrees. He reveals that he has a pig farm, to which she laughs very loud, and it is run now by his wife and three children. She is quiet, but is quickly falling in love, she reveals to Mômone that night. He attends her performance, and she attends his bouts for the championship, which he wins. They are led through a fire escape of her hotel, where she reveals, "I'm beginning to like this city. There are the stars!" and they have their first night together.
At a party in her suite, she babbles to her maid and secretary Ginou that she doesn't mind he is married, she knows he loves his family. Mômone is annoyed that Edith talks about Marcel all the time. Edith calls Marcel, inducing him to fly to New York from Paris tonight. Mômone threatens to leave Edith during the phone call.
The next morning Edith wakes up to Marcel, who is in a suit lounging on her bed. She rushes off to get him coffee, joking with Mômone and Louis who are glumly ash faced, standing in the suite in different rooms. She rushes off to get his present- a watch- and gets irritated that she can't find it. Ginou comes to the door with a very sad expression and exasperated, Edith asks what is wrong with everyone. Louis, her manager, takes her aside and tells her that Marcel died in the plane crash. Edith hysterically searches for the ghost of Marcel that was lounging on her bed just a moment before.
Her mourning consists of seeking fortune tellers, cutting her hair and performing.
There were many flash forwards to a small aged-looking Edith with frizzy red hair, sitting in a chair by the lakeside. She can barely move, and fights with her nurse about drinking carrot juice. Another set of flash forwards depict Edith with short curly hair, plastered to her face like she is feverish, singing on stage and collapsing every other song. She is taken back to her green room, only to be yelled at by Louis to stop performing, as she is conducting her "suicide tour." She gets more shots of morphine and continues to perform. Later that night, she asks to ride with "The American," to drive 400 miles to another town to "catch some air." She tells him to turn around, and in his bad French he questions her, then gets into a car accident. We learn in another flash forward that she has broken two ribs and must be hospitalized, explaining the earlier flash forwards, of her convalescence in Grasse, with the carrot juice fights.
In another flash forward, she is hosting a large party at a Parisian bistro. She toasts to Marguerite who saw her "as a princess," before anyone else did. She flirts with the waiter, and topples a bottle of champagne, not due to drunkenness, but her arthritis. She finally sees the owner of the restaurant and implores him to get her a gift. She asks for a ring, with tons of diamonds on it. Louis, quietly tells him to simply replace the champagne she spilled. The next morning Louis opens her bedroom door to a small Edith on the large bed, with curtains drawn. He offers her breakfast but she tells him no, she is expecting someone. A young man comes in the room and lounges on her bed. Louis leaves, sitting outside the door. Time passes and he re-enters the room. Five or so bloody syringes are on the bed and both Edith and her young man are lying there with their eyes open, in relatively the same position.
She travels to California after her first convalescence and is married to a man- the first husband- and driving around with Ginou and some others, in a car. Ginou is carsick and Edith takes the small break as an opportunity to drive the car, which she does, into a cactus. She jokes that she will now hitchhike.
She sits with her husband at the side of a pool and is offered a strange fruity martini drink. She wonders if he will divorce her now. In the next scene, they are at a doctor's office, in America. She explained that she has been using since the plane crash. Before the doctor can tell her how the shots have been affecting her health, her husband says he wants her to go into rehab. She says she wants to change.
A small, tiny hunched Edith slowly pads into her living room. Her entourage is crowded, concerned, on the other side of the room. She determines that it is impossible, for obvious reasons, to perform the Olympia. Her long time arranger Bruno Coquatrice is told to cancel it. A new songwriter and arranger shows up wtih a song- "Je ne regrette rien," and Edith explains this is her life, this is what she lives for, and tells Bruno that she will perform the Olympia.
She sits in her dressing room and searches for her cross, that she always wears. She sends her maid and secretary out to get it, and at that point has a series of flashbacks. When she returns with the cross, Edith places it on and shuffles out onto the stage. She begins singing "Je ne regrette rien," to more flashbacks.
A sunny day, in the south of France. She walks out to the beach with her knitting. This is a smaller, red-haired Edith with an obvious stoop. She waves at the lifeguard and sits near the breakers. A young woman with a purse and bag approach and introduces herself. She is there for an interview. She asks Edith simple questions- what is her favorite color, her favorite food "Pot roast." and then more questions. What is the most important thing for an adult to know? "To love." For a woman? A child? A baby? All answers: "To love."
Louis carries a bundled up Edith into her bedroom and tucks her into bed. The subtitle reads that this is the date of her death. She is afraid. She says she cannot remember things. She flashes back to small moments, her mother recognizing that they have similar features, but odd eyes. Her father giving her a Japanese doll that she longed for.
She remembers her child, Marcelle, that she had with Louis when she was a street performer. She remembers how he yelled at her for taking Marcelle out on the street. She was singing in a cabaret when Louis came to tell her Marcelle was in the hospital. They arrive, and Marcelle has already died.