La Vie en Rose (2007) Poster

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A Magnificent Biopic, but Overwhelmingly Sad
gregorybnyc17 May 2007
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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I'm coming to the conclusion that this is the best biopic I have ever seen
Flagrant-Baronessa28 March 2007
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
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Rich biopic with editing style of a music video
Chris Knipp16 February 2007
Warning: 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.
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No Regrets
hotlthr-128 February 2007
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.
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I've just seen it
djedj44-18 February 2007
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 mini-series.

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.
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I liked the film despite its several flaws
Natashenka_S8 April 2007
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.
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La Vie En Rose, Thorns and All
brendastern5 June 2007
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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This's a poem about a poet...
herrbigbadwolf27 June 2007
...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.
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Not Just Your Adverage Bio Pic!
mxtotten17 June 2007
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.
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sometimes moving but mostly a mess
mukava99111 February 2008
Edith Piaf's story brings to mind the tragedy of Judy Garland, in some ways her American counterpart – a freakishly talented girl with severe emotional problems who was plucked from obscurity by perceptive and farsighted mentors and transformed into a great artist before self-destructing under the pressures and imbalances inherent in superstardom.

This film is the second attempt in the last 20-odd years to tell the story of the amazing Edith Piaf. The earlier attempt was a poorly received play by British playwright Pam Gems. From what I heard it was sketchy and without depth and didn't do very well on the boards either in the UK or the USA, but the lead actress was highly praised. Now we have another attempt, this time on film, which is also panned for being sketchy and without depth but worth seeing because of an outstanding lead performance, this time by Marion Cotillard.

I agree with most of the other commentators that the script by Olivier Dahan and Isobel Sobelman (if there even was a full script) and Dahan's direction are messy and confusing, as if the director wanted to emulate the Baz Luhrman touch by creating a 10-ring circus. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that Dahan scribbled ideas on index cards, threw them up in the air and then picked them up randomly, stacked them on a table and said, "Let's shoot the film in this order." The producers of this train wreck wisely hired very talented actors, costume designers, set builders and camera people. I think the French are world-class experts in these departments. Most French period films look right, down to the lighting.

The challenge of making a film biography of Piaf is that she was so extraordinary and she lived such an eventful life during historically volatile times. How to tell it all without succumbing to the episodic TV-movie style is something that should be handed over to only the most skilled screenwriter. Dahan is not that person, His direction of individual scenes isn't so bad. It's the context in which they are presented and the confusing script that weakens the film. It is hard to tell whether the editing jumped back and forth and sideways in order to conceal the essential weakness of the material or if the zigzagging was intended from the outset, perhaps to mirror the chaos of Piaf's lifestyle. But if so, WHY? Why make bad scrambled eggs when you could have made a great omelet?

Marion Cotillard fulfills all of the demands of this role, as dictated by this diffuse script. Nothing she does is lukewarm or halfhearted. But what she is required to do is suspect. Surely Piaf was no beauty toward the end, but she certainly didn't look like a mangled crone out of Fellini's SATYRICON.

But amidst this mess I was actually moved, especially during the buildup period when she is first seen singing on the streets to an appreciative audience of passersby or the way one of her mentors strictly coaches her to be the best she can be by improving her stage posture and enunciation or her rapturous reaction to a new song played for her by composers inspired by her artistry, as if she lives for such beauty. Those scenes were going in the right direction.

It is not even so bad that certain aspects of her life are reduced to brief telegraphic scenes such as the moment when she meets Marlene Dietrich, played very well and authentically by Caroline Sihol. Too bad there couldn't have been more of this relationship in the film. I'd have happily sacrificed about half of the footage devoted to her sappy involvement with the boxer for another scene or two with Dietrich whom she knew very well for several years.

The total absence of World War Two from the story is baffling. Surely her experiences performing for prisoners of war and her work in the Resistance and her devious methods of dealing with the Nazi occupiers would have brought out fascinating elements of her character and made for rousing and suspenseful scenes. Again, this omission speaks of a randomness at the conceptual level.

The religious element is played up from beginning to end. As a little girl she devoutly prays to St. Theresa. As a grown woman she treasures the cross that she wears around her neck. When she meets certain people, like Dietrich or her boxer lover, the expression of adoration on her face is the same as that of the little girl praying to her saint. It's all effective but presented as one of many fragments unconnected to the other fragments.

By the end you are more grateful that it's over than you are to have experienced this unique performer, and that's really sad.
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The Kid in Not So Rosy Hues
pisanond14 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
La Mome is a sophisticated biopic with a first rate cast and rich production values. Marion Cotillard's performance in her role as Edith Piaf was technically proficient but somewhat cold and enigmatic. At first I interpreted this approach to be a reflection of the character: perhaps in life Ms. Piaf was a cipher to those around her, cold and distant. The dialog, direction and film editing with its constant flashbacks and flash forwards, reinforce this interpretation. But the opposite is true. The details of her life after her discovery as a singer are well documented and her life itself was a passionate, if tragic, one. Thus we are left to determine whether the obvious deficiencies in the movie are those of the actor, the writers, the director (who co-wrote) or all three. I cannot sort it out and so must fault all involved. Meaty female leading roles of the sort tackled here by Ms. Cotillard are rare indeed and her performance in showcasing Pilaf's life from young woman to a prematurely aged wreck (she was only 48 when she died of liver failure but if the movie is to be believed she looked to be at least 30 years older) has its "wow" moments. But the whole is less than the parts. The character doesn't develop over the course of the movie nor is insight into her life provided through either the writing, direction or performance. Her death and many significant facts of her life are purposely obscured or shrouded in mystery--to an unnecessary degree. The most significant of these failures are her activities during the German occupation during World War II. One would think this period, rather than the tedious post-War period of physical decline and drug abuse, would have deserved at least some treatment. I suspect it is because this period of her life is a controversial one. Was she a Nazi collaborator and traitor or a secret member of the French Resistance? To the writers and director of 'La Mome' the years 1940-1945 never happened despite the fact that the song that inspired the alternative title to this film: 'La Vie En Rose' was authored and released in 1945. So what is to be made of this movie? As an artistic work I believe it is a failure for it shrinks from dealing with any of the significant issues of Piaf's time that speak to ours. From a technical perspective the art direction, the ensemble performances, the music and the cinematography are first rate.
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Edith Piaf lived an incredible life. This movie is not it.
luvcraft4 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Edith Piaf was a member of the French Resistance during World War II. She launched the career of actor Yves Montand, she starred in a blockbuster play written by Jean Cocteau. She was such a hit in the US that she appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show eight times and at Carnegie Hall twice. She singlehandedly saved the famous Paris Olympia concert hall from bankruptcy, and it's still open today.

None of these items are mentioned in La Vie en Rose, however, which chooses instead to present an onslaught of ham-fisted melodramas, many of which are severely embellished from her life (her lover died in a plane crash on his way to a boxing match, not on his way to a clandestine meeting with her), and some of which are made up whole-cloth (she never grew up in the circus). La Vie en Rose jumps haphazardly through Piaf's life, from childhood to adulthood to the end of her life, back and forth with no rhyme or reason, and at every point in her life she is surrounded by friends and hangers-on for whom no context is given, and often not even names are given, although they're depicted as being important and influential figures in her life. Aside from a brief montage of records and newspaper clippings, no mention is made in the movie to Piaf's monumental success, and all the audience is given is a litany of her tragedies, which are significantly dulled by a lack of high points and happy moments to contrast them with.

Two other nagging points on top of what I've already mentioned; first of all, Piaf is never shown smoking in the movie, despite the fact that she was a chain smoker and it significantly changed her voice later in her career. Second, although Marion Cotillard does look quite a bit like Edith Piaf (albeit about two feet taller than Piaf's 4'8"), her acting is just not up to the challenge; she portrays an older Piaf as a senile, uncharismatic shell of a person, and portrays Piaf in her 20s as a goofy, over-the-top caricature strongly reminiscent of Nicole Sullivan's "Antonia" character from MadTV.

Edith Piaf's life was full of so many ups and downs and triumphs over hardship that a movie of it could practically write itself, and some day a truly wonderful and inspiring movie will be made of her life. La Vie en Rose, however, was certainly not it.
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Here's Looking At You, Kid
writers_reign1 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Before this movie was screened yesterday the director, Olivier Dahan, was introduced to the audience. His appearance was as undistinguished as his CV which consists mainly of music videos and Purple Rivers II, in short a forty year old apparently doing his damnedest to eclipse Pete Doherty as a tragic joke. My initial reaction - which he gave me no reason to change - was 'what a t**t'. Just for a split second I wondered if the word of mouth was perhaps wrong, how could someone who looked and behaved like a refugee from the Betty Ford Clinic make even a half-decent movie.

The answer is: Marion Cotillard. She takes the film by the scruff of the neck and transcends the inept Direction. Forget the Oscar, the Cesar, the Bafta, Golden Globe, they're going to have to CREATE a new Award for this performance. A girl I know in Paris saw this when it was released there on Valentine's Day and wrote me that 'Cotillard doesn't play Piaf, she IS Piaf'. How right she was; Cotillard is Piaf in the same way that Gloria Swanson WAS Norma Desmond, in a way that Larry Parks was NOT Jolson or Cary Grant was NOT Cole Porter or, coming nearer to home, Fanny Ardant was not QUITE Maria Callas.

The thing is I've never been much of a Piaf fan, I could take her or leave her but Cotillard makes it crystal clear just who and what Piaf WAS, a one-off, an incredible talent with a private life that sucked. One of a triumvirate if you will with Judy Garland and Billie Holiday. They had a shot at Lady Day and it was an honorable shot but light years short of what Cotillard brings to La Mome. If they ever find an actress who can BE Judy Garland as Cotillard is Edith Piaf the result will be a movie to die for. Chronology is perhaps the wrong word to describe what at times resembles one Magic Mushroom too many and anyone unfamiliar with Piaf's life will be better not attempting to negotiate the labyrinth but just wallow in Cotillard's artistry. Dahan has made some bizarre choices; he mentions Paul Meurisse (a distinguished French stage and screen actor who co-starred with Piaf in a play written by Jean Cocteau but who is virtually unknown outside France and even within it by anyone under forty) and shows Michel Emer (an equally distinguished French composer of 'pop' songs in the forties and fifties but again totally unknown today) yet omits the one person once close to Piaf who IS still remembered, Yves Montand, who appeared with her at the Moulin Rouge and the film Etoile Sans lumiere and became her lover; equally bizarrely Montand gets a mention when, towards the end of her life, she is playing the Olympia, a venue where both she AND Montand enjoyed some of their greatest triumphs; she is very frail and her entourage are listing celebrities in the audience 'Montand is here', 'Montand? I didn't know he was in France', 'He came for you, Edith'. This is meaningless unless you know that Piaf dropped Montand as a lover once his popularity equalled her own and later claimed to have 'discovered' him, both resulting in an estrangement which would give more meaning to Montand being present at Olympia. Cotillard is augmented by some fine French actors, none more distinguished than Gerard Depardieu in a cameo as Louis Leplee who heard a kid singing in the street, hired her for a cabaret he ran and christened her 'Piaf'; Jean-Paul Rouve is her father, Manu Seigner Titine, the prostitute who befriends her, Montand's step-daughter Catherine Allegret is also on hand and Slyvie Testud and Pascal Greggory shine as lifelong friend and manager. There is one masterstroke; when she plays the Olympia for the first time, she is racked by stage fright and has to be coaxed on to the stage. Dahan opens on the microphone center stage, looking out at the audience (a schtick he's overly fond of but here it's okay) Piaf walks out and stands with her back to us. The orchestra strikes up and in a Reverse angle we see her mouth opening but no sound comes out. The whole song is played mute and the effect comes from her growing confidence, the orchestra slowly building to a crescendo and the audience growing ecstatic. For a film about a singer there's not that much song; snatches of her signature songs are heard behind scenes of her childhood but seldom do we hear a song in its entirety, just enough of Milord, La Vie En Rose to whet appetites and inexplicably not one word of Hymn d'Amour. Ultimately it's Cotillard's triumph, one minute an arthritic bundle of rags the next a Radiant young woman who IS beautiful because she makes you BELIEVE she is. Magnifique.
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Madmoiselle Sings the Blues
st-shot23 February 2008
La Mome is a biography about the street waif turned French National Treasure, Edith Piaf. The Little Sparrow as she was known led a tragic life of immense proportion before dying at the age of 47 making her story tailor made for a film bio, but in spite of this plethora of material, the makers disjoint the whole affair by juggling the chronology.

From a depraved childhood filled with abuse and horror the scrawny but scrappy Piaf fends off a pimp, is discovered then ruined through scandal is re-discovered falls in love with a world champion fighter, becomes drug dependent and eventually gives up the ghost. You will never listen to a Piaf song in the same way again.

As Piaf, Marion Cotillard ages and suffers convincingly but she does occasionally lapse into a buffoonish wide eyed Lucy routine along the way. Her sidekick Momone is like Bresson's Mouchette reaching adulthood. You want to throw her into the Seine. The rest of the cast including Gerard Deperadieu are just well dressed and forgettable.

In addition to the film's confusing storyline director, co-writer Olivier Dahan relies on too much screaming and yelling from his actors to bring drama to his scenes. The story lags toward the end since flash forwards reveal where Piaf is headed earlier in the film. There is also an inexplicable waste of time devoted to a Marcel Cerdan fight which is given too much weight to the biography. Of course there is the music but you can save yourself a lot of time by buying the CD taking her biography out of the library, sit home and sip a good red. This film will only make you see red.
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A French afternoon in New York
paul-323919 June 2007
Before getting to the review of this astonishing film, let me tell you about how I came to see it. On my way back to the UK from Indiana last week I had a seven hour layover in Newark. I don't much enjoy hanging around airports for hours, so I took the 30 minute train ride into Manhattan. Wandering up the road from Maddison Square Gardens I heard a smart-suited African speaking French into his 'cellulaire'. Wondering if he was from Côte d'Ivoire where we used to live, I followed him through a shop doorway. As my eyes adjusted to the rather greasy gloom, I noted that I had entered a little Caribbean bakery/restaurant full of black faces. I suppressed the desire to make a quick exit and joined him at the back of the queue at the counter. He turned out to be Senegalese rather than Ivorian, but was very pleased to have another chance to talk French...

After a very tasty $7 lunch of 'stew chicken with rice & beans' and a portion of fried plantains, I headed on up 8th Avenue. A few blocks further on I came to a cinema and decided that it would be great to see a 'movie' on a real big screen rather than the way I see most films these days through the distinctly low-def screen built into the back of the airline seat in front of me.

I was just in time to buy tickets for La Vie en Rose which was starting right away. Entering the big 'movie theater' I was shocked that at four on a Wednesday afternoon the place was packed solid. As my eyes adjusted and hunted for an empty seat I observed that I was once again the stranger - almost everyone there appeared to be over sixty. Perhaps it was the cheap day for seniors or the fact that La Vie en Rose had only opened a few days earlier but the film definitely merits a large audience.

Perhaps you are put off by foreign language films with subtitles, but to have dubbed this from French would have been a crime. It is a biopic of the life of Edith Piaf whose theme song was La Vie en Rose - literally 'Life in Pink' or more idiomatically 'The Rose-tinted Life'. Edith Piaf's gravelly voice and melodramatic life is superbly portrayed by Marion Cotillard as the film works its way through her life to the accompaniment of her distinctive songs. Of course, as in all French films which make it to the anglophone world, there is a role for THE French Actor as we often refer to Gerard Depardieu; he is the impresario who literally discovers 'the Little Sparrow' singing in the back-streets of Montmartre.

It was quite a puzzle to place each scene in chronological order as the film jumps around through more flashbacks and flash forwards than an entire season of Lost. Apart from that though, La Vie en Rose is an absolute triumph, rich with the colours of Piaf's tragic life. The entire audience stuffed damp handkerchiefs into their pockets, rose to their feet and applauded this guaranteed Oscar winner. Piaf finished her career singing a song which she felt summed up her life - "Non je ne regrette rien!" Take your friends to see this classic film and you'll have no regrets either.
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A great popular melodrama.
akkron22 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The film was evidently conceived and planned as a great popular melodrama and the film is just it. Even sometimes on the limit of bad taste. For example this long episode with Piaf persuading and persuading Marcel Cerdan to fly immediately to America to meet her, that you begin to feel that it becomes an excellent framework for a great melodramatic tragic episode and of course it turns out exactly this way. The commentators insist that constant flashbacks in the film produce a rather confusing effect on the spectator. And it is true. One of IMDS's commentators exclaims: " Why this anarchic presentation? Ask the Director, only he knows the answer." May be I guess why. The Director wanted to produce the maximal emotional effect on the spectator but he was not sure enough of himself. He was afraid that if he narrates the Piaf's biography simply in chronological manner he risks annoying the spectator. For example, an important part of the film is devoted to the decrepitude of singer in her last years. If it were narrated just chronologically it may produce a rather depressing effect on the spectator. But a flashback to her flamboyant youth at this moment produces just that emotional shock that the Director has intended to create. And it works! And of course the performance of Marion Cotillard as Piaf is absolutely astounding.
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Marion is spectacular but the film is needlessly melodramatic
Maciste_Brother18 May 2007
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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Disjointed story doesn't disguise lack of storytelling ability
tiercel127 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Sometimes, the flashback can be an effective tool. Sometimes a story is best told in pieces rather than a single, linear, contiguous whole.

This movie? Goes to the other extreme. We are whipsawed back and forth all over the main character's life, increasingly as the runtime progresses -- doing little to advance our understanding or sympathy for the character. In fact, it seems specifically concocted to try and make the story more incomprehensible or simply to obscure the fact that the makers of this movie couldn't stand to try and tie together the thread of Edith Piaf's life, preferring to serve up a mishmash of melodramatically tragic vignettes.

In particular, as has been mentioned, I'm not sure that revealing the death of the main character's daughter only near the end accomplishes much, or anything. It's not a "big reveal" or unlocks anything that we've seen all film; it seems cheap that such a particular tragedy would be deliberately hidden until near the end, and then treated as a throwaway reference. But then... characters who aren't Edith Piaf are largely treated as throwaway, popping in and out of disjointed scenes seemingly at random.

There are some who might turn up their nose at linear storytelling because it is somehow too simple to lay out the line of someone's life, and forces you to make sense of the presence of others in that person's life. Using flashbacks, nonlinear disjointed scenes would require *more* skill, not less, to portray facts of the main character's personality more effectively -- a skill that is sadly, even wholly, lacking in this film.
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Excellent performance!
johoweee22 April 2007
Marion Cotillard is astounding in this film! I am not easy to please as I used to perform as a Piaf impersonator so Piaf's life and music are very close to my heart, but I found Cotillard utterly convincing. She really brings out Piaf's combination of vulnerability and bloody-minded determination as well as her fiery temperament. I spent most of the film in tears, but that's because I'm too soppy for my own good! I knew Piaf's life-story well but I still found the structure of the film and the way it leaps about in time a little confusing. It's true that it was difficult to understand Piaf's relationship with her friends and that Theo Sarapo was left out of the story. Apart from one line when Edith asks for him on her death bed, he doesn't feature, even though as her last husband he looked after her and significantly improved her final years. They even performed duets together eg. 'A quoi ca sert l'amour?' and this was totally left out of the story. There were a lot of scenes of Edith in Grasse looking frail and close to death. Would it have been so difficult to include a scene with Theo? The story about Marcelle seemed like a bit of an afterthought too. To be honest, I would have preferred a more chronological approach to Edith's life but I still thoroughly enjoyed the film and I can't praise Cotillard's performance enough. The other actors were also excellent. Despite by criticisms it is still a must-see!
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A spectacular mess
freebird-6423 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Take this down.

Edith Piaf (1915-1963), born Edith Giovanna Gassion to a former café singer and a street acrobat. Abandoned by her parents, she lived for a time in a brothel run by her paternal grandmother. From three to seven years old, she allegedly went blind as a result of meningitis, but later recovered her sight after going on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Therese. At 14 she joined her father in street performances, during which she sang in public for the first time.

She later went her own way as a street singer along with her half-sister Simone Berteaut (nicknamed Momone). In 1935 she was discovered by nightclub owner Louis Leplee, who gave her the nickname La Mome Piaf (the little sparrow). Her career was momentarily derailed after Leplee was murdered, allegedly by gangsters she had previous ties with. To save her career, she turned to Raymond Asso, who gave her the stage name Edith Piaf and commissioned Marguerite Monnot to write songs for her. Monnot became a life-long friend and collaborator.

During this period she rose to prominence as one of France's most popular entertainer and toured all over the world. However, she initially met with little success in the US until a glowing review by a prominent New York critic launched her to fame in America. Her greatest performances were at the Paris Olympia concert hall, the most famous venue in Paris.

The great love of her life was the heavyweight world champion Marcel Cerdan, who was a legend in France in his own right. After a car crash in 1951, she became addicted to morphine and alcohol, two addictions she could never shake for the remaining years of her life. She died at 47 of liver cancer. Did you get that? Good, because unless you're from France, you'll need all the above information to make heads or tails of La Môme (aka La Vie en Rose), a movie about the life of Edith Piaf. The film pingpongs in a roughly chronological fashion from her early years to her later years with little narrative logic or thematic sense. One problem I have with the film is that it assumes that you already know all about Piaf's life and are watching the film simply to see recreations of key moments in her life – a sort of greatest hits if you will. Or maybe a Behind the Music special. Watching La Môme, you would never understand what made Edith Piaf a French icon.

Which leads to my major problem with the film: the filmmakers seem determined to present Edith Piaf in the most unflattering light possible. Quite apart from her extraordinary voice, what you would learn about her from La Môme is that she is: an alcoholic and a junkie, a spoiled, arrogant diva, and a home-wrecker. She was also, unfortunately, quite ugly, a fact that Piaf herself readily acknowledges in the film. By the time she was in her forties, the film portrays her as looking easily twenty years older, with a ravaged face and an old woman's stoop. Did the woman have no redeeming qualities whatsoever?

Marion Cotillard really deserves some kind of an award for not downplaying the ugly qualities of this supremely unpleasant figure. Unfortunately, the filmmakers also seem determined to cut anything resembling a performance from this film. Quite apart from the physical impersonation, there is nothing to Cotillard's performance that would tell you anything about Piaf's character.

The best parts of the film are those involving Piaf's early life, which have all the fascination of a Dickens novel. But once Cotillard takes over as the adult Piaf, watch out, the film starts to make little sense. There are even some puzzling artistic choices, such as the decision to play a key concert scene without vocals, backed only by the score. Even worse, the scene is further reduced to a series of quick close-ups of Piaf's lips and hands, inter-cut with shots of the audience reaction.

If you have to watch the film, make sure you read up on Piaf first before you go. Oh, and enjoy the songs, which are mainly actual recordings of Piaf herself. They're really the only reason to watch La Môme.
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Great Viewing though far from perfect
nicholas.rhodes22 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This film is certainly worth viewing, if only for the magnificent performance of its star, Marion Cotillard. Resembling Piaf physically and miming perfectly the words to the voice of the star, an accent similar to that of Piaf even if it is a little over exaggerated at times, there is little to be reproached concerning her performance. The structure of the film is another kettle of fish and it should be stated that a prior knowledge of Piaf's biography is INDISPENSABLE before seeing this film, otherwise you will be totally confused. Unfortunately Piaf's life has not been processed like a proper biography with a beginning and an end, like in the film Bernadette or Louis Pasteur for example. The film is a selection of scenes from her life assembled higgledy-piggledy without any sort of order or structure so whereas each episode is extremely moving and well done, the "whole" does not come across as an organised and structured biography. Why this anarchic presentation ? Ask the Director, only he knows the answer. Certain episodes of Piaf's life, such as that of her final husband, Theo Sarapo are eclipsed completely. We catch a fleeting glimpse of Charles Aznavour and don't even see Yves Montand. The episode with Marcel Cerdan was, as is to be expected, the most emotional and well done and the actor playing Cerdan was indeed a handsome man so we can understand Piaf's emotion. But even here there is a certain confusion. On the night where his plane crashed, we see him, albeit for a short while, enter Piafs bedroom and she prepares him coffee, then we are suddenly given to understand that this was all some sort of illusion and we see all her friends with terrified faces unable to inform her of the tragedy that has occurred. This is very clumsy on the part of the director and many people watching the film with me were stumped by this. There seems also to be excessive time spent on Piaf's travel in California. On the other hand we get a good dose of Raymond Asso, but little of Michel Emer and Charles Dumont. We see very little of the Bonnel family but have more than ample doses of Simone Bertheaut ( dite "Momone" ) The character Titine at the beginning would appear to have been invented for the film !. So basically there are all sorts of deficiencies in the structure of the film. I would suggest reading Piaf's biography BEFORE seeing it, the book Piaf by Joelle Montserrat is very good as it also gives insight into each of her songs as well as the large number of people intervening in her life. Depardieu is of course excellent as Louis Leplée but his part is necessarily short. But if there is one thing outstanding about this film, it is Marion Cotillard's performance. Let me assure you that you will not exit the film emotionally intact and that is something few films do nowadays !
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Awesome Biography of a French Icon
claudio_carvalho15 August 2010
Yesterday I received an e-mail from a friend with highlights of the biography of Edith Piaf and I finally decided to watch "La Môme". This awesome film presents, in a non-chronological sequence, the sad biography of this French icon from her childhood to her death. Marion Cotillard is the perfect personification of the singer and really deserved the Oscar of Best Actress in 2008. The cinematography, art direction, sets, costumes and soundtrack are stunning. However the story fails exactly in the passions of Edith Piaf – her affairs with Yves Montand, Marlene Dietrich, Jacques Pills, Charles Aznavour, Georges Moustaki and the most important, her marriage with the Greek hairdresser Théo Sarapo (Theophanis Lamboukas) are totally omitted. Last but not the least, in accordance with the legend, Théo Sarapo that was twenty years younger than Edith inherited her debts and would have committed suicide after paying them. He was buried beside Edith and her daughter Marcelle in Paris. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Piaf – Um Hino ao Amor" ("Paif – A Hymn to Love")
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They left out more than they put in
emuir-120 January 2008
Apart from the fact that I found this the most depressing film since "The Serpent's Egg", my biggest disappointments were with the lack of subtitling for the songs, and that large periods of Edith Piaf's life were just left out - WWII never happened! During WWII, France was occupied by the Germans, and just as in Iraq today, the occupying forces thought they, and the citizens who worked with them, were the good guys. The film "Le Chagrin et la Pitie" showed that many French citizens either willingly, or by indifference, collaborated with the Germans. Like many other prominent Frenchmen and women, Edith Piaf's actions during the war years were ambiguous to say the least. She was accused of collaborating, and she did sing for the Germans in their clubs. After the war, just as the majority of Germans claimed to have been anti-Nazi, the population claiming to have been members of the French Resistance grew to a point where you wonder how France ever fell to the Germans, and how they managed to deport so many French Jews. Edith Piaf claimed to have been secretly working for the Resistance, but this has not been verified. Whether or not she was a collaborator or a Resistance member should have been addressed in the film. Instead the narrative took a giant leap forward from 1940 to 1947.

The other fault was that the subtitling did not include a translation of her songs. As Piaf died over 40 years ago, she is not known to many people under the age of 60, and even they don't all speak French. If you are going to have subtitles for the dialogue, there should also be a translation of the songs, which were very much a part of her story, especially the final ending where she sang "je ne regrette rien" - I have no regrets! This was akin to making a foreign language film about Vera Lynn, without letting the audience know the words of her immortal inspiring songs of WWII.
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A life in pink has no regrets, Milord
obei200528 March 2011
To see this movie was a pleasure. Its astounding how a life can be so full of sadness but greatness at the same time. The tragic life of the singer Edith Piaf made people around the world cry and smile at the same time. It a story that cant be told in words, you have to see this movie to understand. I think it is the first movie ever , that made me actually depressed and amazed at the same time. From start to finish a heartbreaking emotional movie, with the help of Marion Cotillard that deserved her Oscar, from the moment the movie came on screen. Never before has an actress embodied such a character with such passion and such depth

Go rent this movie right now, it deserves being watched.
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An Homage to a Great Singer; but not enough for a great movie
mokladek8 May 2007
Marion was wonderful portraying a clearly unbalanced and self destructive artist. And how she lip-sync'd that perfectly was truly amazing. It really brought Edith's music to life.

However, the issues I had with the movie were threefold: 1. Just about everybody in her life, as portrayed by the movie, seem to have her best interest at heart; everyone from the small town prostitutes to the managers and servants who nursed her at the end. Which begs the question: if everyone in Edith Piaf's life showed her such kindness, why did she end up such a mess? Marcel Cerdan, the love of her life, was portrayed as a heart throb with only love and patience in his soul. My recollection (and this was passed down to me by my parents) was that theirs was a tumultuous relationship. If that's the case, why not give it the honest portrayal it deserved? In the constellation of her life, there had to be devils, the ones that abused, manipulated and violated her trust, driving her to the edge of insanity and addiction. That would have been drama.

2. I realized early on in the movie that the director had to have made the assumption that anyone watching was well aware on who these people were. Consequently, characters would drop in and out like so many distant relatives who had no need for introduction.

3. I like the time shifts one finds in such classics like "Citizen Kane." It fleshes out the story so that by the end we have traveled the path of life with the heroine. But we have to remain anchored in the present so that we always have a feel as to where we are in the story line. In this movie, there may have been a bit too much movement away from the core, and not necessarily coming back to the same point. By the end, I couldn't tell if she was in Paris, New York, on her death bed or getting ready for her last concert.

It is a movie worth seeing. For anyone who knows little about Piaf, it will give them a feel for this french icon, second only to the Eiffel Tower and Napoleon. But she lived a tragic life; this movie only makes it seem sad.
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