The talent and extraordinary spirit of French chanteuse Edith Piaf is celebrated in this monumental biopic which covers the entirety of her tragic life from 1920s rural France to 1960s New York.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2007
The talent and extraordinary spirit of legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf is celebrated in this monumental biopic that covers the entirety of her tragic life: from rural France to urban New York, from the 1920s to the 1960s. A massive hit in France, and winner of five Césars, La vie en rose bounces across Piaf’s complicated career, cutting back and forth in an energetic juxtaposition of time and events. Opening with her distressing last performance, where she collapses on stage, director Oliver Dahan back-tracks to her childhood in the muddy ruin of wartime Belleville to better explain her plight. A virtual orphan, young Edith is discarded by her mother, taken in by prostitutes and then reclaimed by a father who ‘discovers’ her talent when she’s forced to sing for their supper. Before long, she’s picked up by a nightclub owner (played by Gérard Depardieu) and soon becomes a revered, international performer, albeit one whose success was tempered by a lifelong battle with drugs. “Marion Cotillard’s feral portrait of the French singer Edith Piaf as a captive wild animal hurling herself at the bars of her cage is the most astonishing immersion of one performer into the body and soul of another I’ve ever encountered in a film.” — Stephen Holden, NY Times.
“Cotillard nails the assignment, portraying Piaf at 20 to Piaf on her deathbed with a range of gestures, her trademark posture, and a core of eternal hurt melded with ferocious pride. She embodies Piaf’s raspy speaking voice, her imperious street-wise attitude, her simple joy at being lionized by other celebs, and the taste of artistic triumph mixed with the constant hum of genuine tragedy.” — Lisa Nesselson, Variety