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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.86%
Worth A Look71.43%
Average: 2.86%
Pretty Bad: 2.86%
Total Crap: 0%

4 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Vie En Rose, La (2007)
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by Mel Valentin

"See it for Piaf's songs, but above all, see it for Marion Cotillard."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Directed and co-written by Olivier Dahan’s ("Crimson Rivers 2: Angels of the Apocalypse," "Ghost River," "Tom Thumb") self-described "tragic, romantic blockbuster," "La Vie en Rose" ("Môme, La") explores French chanteuse Edith Piaf’s short, tragic life. Born Edith Giovanna Gassion in Belleville, Paris in 1915, Gassion (later renamed “Piaf,” the French equivalent of the word “sparrow”) loved and lost and suffered, combining her personal experiences with her prodigious singing talents to become one of France’s, and later the world’s, most beloved performers. Piaf died prematurely two months shy of her forty-eighth birthday in 1963. Already considered a national institution, Piaf was mourned by tens of thousands in France.

Beginning in 1959 as Piaf (Marion Cotillard) struggles with drug addiction and deteriorating health, La Vie en Rose jumps around chronologically, following Piaf as a five-year old child (Manon Chevallier) abandoned serially by first her mother, Anetta (Clotilde Courau), a sometime singer, and her father, Louis (Jean-Paul Rouve), a circus performer, Edith finds momentary happiness living in her grandmother Louise’s (Catherine Allegre) brothel in Normandy. There, Titine (Emmanuelle Seigner), one of Louise’s prostitutes, showers Edith with love and attention. Edith’s brief flirtation with happiness changes when she temporarily loses her eyesight. Louis’ reappearance ends Edith’s brief idyll. The self-absorbed, alcoholic Louis forces Edith to work as his servant and assistant, but when his act fails, the ten-year old Edith (Pauline Burlet) becomes a street singer to help them earn a living.

Ten years later, Louis Leplée (Gérard Depardieu), a cabaret owner, discovers Edith singing on a street corner. Entranced, Leplée gives Edith a backing band, a stage, and helps Edith overcome performance anxiety. Edith loses Leplée as a mentor, but gains another, Raymond Asso (Marc Barbé). Asso helps Edith develop her signature performing style. Success follows, including an extended engagement in New York City and at the Olympia concert hall in Paris, but personal tragedy undermines Piaf’s professional triumphs. Friends, lovers, even two husbands, come and go, but long-term happiness proves elusive. At thirty-four, Piaf begins a promising, if brief, love affair with Marcel Cerdan (Jean-Pierre Martins), a married middleweight boxer. Just two years later, a car accident leaves Piaf with chronic arthritis and addicted to morphine.

Not surprisingly, Dahan and his co-screenwriter, Isabelle Sobelman, were forced to compress or eliminate events and people from Edith Piaf’s life. They also took dramatic license with some events, changing when they happened or the relative age of the characters. Minor changes for dramatic purposes, though, aren’t really the problem with La Vie en Rose. What is a problem is that Dahan and Sobelman seem to presume that moviegoers are closely familiar with not just the general contours of Piaf’s short story and the major and minor events that made up her life, but everyone who passed through her life for brief durations. Dahan makes little effort to introduce the ever-changing members of Piaf’s entourage, who seemingly appear out of nowhere minus names or relevant context.

La Vie en Rose’s non-linear structure compounds a seemingly minor problem. Rather than work through Piaf’s life chronologically, Dahan decided to start near the end of her life as she collapses on stage, then jump back in time to her early childhood, before jumping forward in time and then back again. The non-linear structure makes for unnecessarily muddled, meandering storytelling that isn’t helped by La Vie En Rose’s overlong running time or the odd decision to leave the majority of the songs performed in the film minus subtitles. The film’s producers translate only two songs from Piaf’s oeuvre, “La Vie en Rose” and "Non, je ne regrette rien."

Story aside, "La Vie en Rose" is worth seeing due to the period detail and the corresponding cinematography, top-notch production values, Edith Piaf’s songs, and Marion Cotillard’s riveting performance as Edith Piaf. Whether she’s playing Piaf as a tentative, uneducated twenty-year old finding her voice and identity in pre-World War II Paris or almost unrecognizable as the frail, terminally ill Piaf at forty-seven, Cotillard gives the kind of performance that moviegoers, critics, and award societies will be recognizing and talking about this year and next (as well they should). Cotillard can expect a call from Hollywood any day now She probably shouldn’t answer it, unless of course they can offer a role with the same kind of dramatic and emotional range (unlikely, but possible).

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originally posted: 06/09/07 12:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2007 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2007 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/16/09 g. meh 2 stars
1/30/08 Phil M. Aficionado A 3-4 star film with a 5+ star lead role. Coulda been longer to tell Piaf's WHOLE story. 5 stars
10/24/07 William Goss Cotillard is great, and so are the tunes, but an undeniable downer and generic biopic. 3 stars
9/07/07 Juan Best Movie Of The Year! 5 stars
9/02/07 mara Best Actress for sure for this year. Outrageously amazing performance! 5 stars
8/30/07 Alex Hosking Oscar winning performance by Marion Cotillard. Don't miss it. 5 stars
8/10/07 bungalowgal The best film I have seen in a very long time 5 stars
8/03/07 Ole Man Bourbon Cotillard's Piaf is reminiscent of Dunnaway's Joan Crawford. Maybe it was just the 'brows. 4 stars
7/16/07 David Devonis Marvelous film. Transcends itself. 5 stars
6/26/07 jonniemike great movie 5 stars
6/22/07 Heather Marion Cotillard is amazing performing as Edith Piaf 5 stars
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  08-Jun-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Nov-2007



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