LA VIE EN ROSE (Olivier Dahan)
The voice of Edith Piaf is one you’ve most likely heard numerous times as a musical representation of the city of Paris. She was widely known here in the U.S. during the ‘50s and ‘60s, but in France, and in most of Europe, the love of her music has been carried through the generations.
Now the biopic film, La Vie En Rose (named after an Edith Piaf song), is making its way Starz FilmCenter on Friday, June 15, after being embraced by millions of Europeans.
Not only is this a story of a struggling artist that was known for having a voice known as the soul of Paris, but the film itself pays tribute to artistry, dipping a paint brush into rich a vintage palate of the time, from the set, to the costumes and the lighting.
Director Olivier Dahan bounces back and forth in time, connecting the dots between her childhood and adult life, showing from one scene to another, how events of her past haunted her all the way to her death bed.
Born in 1915, she was severely neglected by her mother, who had dreams and inspirations herself of becoming a star while her father was off fighting World War I. After finding out Edith had been dumped at her grandmother’s by her mother, the father knew to come home and rescue her, taking her instead to his mother’s brothel to live while he made his way back to the lines.
Ironically, she found love and affection in this household. What seems to be a never-ending curse in Edith’s life rose soon after, bringing about an illness that robbed her of her sight. One “lady of the evening” who had become her surrogate mother, took her to pray at the statue of Saint Theresa, and after regaining her sight one day, Edith would continue to turn to this saint each time she was desperate for things to finally go her way.
Marion Cotillard plays the grown Edith, transforming herself in every stage of her life. Not only does Cotillard portray her character with immense intensity, including how she lip synched Edith’s music as if she was really singing herself, but she performs seamlessly from a sprite girl in her ‘20s singing on the streets for money, to a confident woman in her ‘30s defying everyone in her path, to a decrepit old woman. And if you ever see a picture of the real Edith Piaf, the resemblance is uncanny.
Although Edith had many lovers in her life, including the French boxer Marcel Cerdan with whom she fell for deeply for under the lights of New York City, it was her ability to sing that was her true love.
After experiencing deep grief after the death of Cerdan, she dove into a stage of self destruction, diving further into her drinking habit and becoming addicted to morphine to combat the pain from arthritis and a previous car accident. At one point she collapsed on stage and was carried off, but begged to return and sing just one more song, “Otherwise I will loose faith in myself.”
Her determination to perform was her ultimate addiction. She drove herself constantly, to a point where she aged herself by decades in a matter of five years. At one point in the film, you see a convalescing Edith with her carriers, discussing plans for her next performance. She proclaims that she’s only 44 and isn’t stopping yet. It was shocking to see considering that she looked like a woman 30 years older.
The discovery of music that was made for her also brought her great joy, where the face of the wide-eyed girl returned. There were a few occasions in the film where songwriters would appear on her doorstep, eager to perform their songs for her approval.
But it was “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” or “No Regrets” was the song that she could have written herself, and one she embraced immediately.
“No! I will have no regrets / All the things / That went wrong / For at last I have learned to be strong…For the grief doesn’t last / It is gone / I’ve forgotten the past / And the memories I had / I no longer desire / Both the good and the bad / I have flung in a fire.”
Through all her tragedies, her loss of love, her sicknesses and pain, she never let go of her soul and her will. During the many times her manager was telling her what she couldn’t do, she responded with, “I can’t? What’s the point of being Edith Piaf?” Exactly, and thankfully for us, she did what she wanted most.
The film opens Friday, June 15 at Landmark’s Chez Artiste in Denver.