La Vie En Rose (DVD)
Marion Cotillard ("Big Fish," "A Very Long Engagement") won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her performance in this examination of the life of singer Edith Piaf (1915-1963), known as "The Little Sparrow." Piaf grew up in difficult circumstances, living at times with her mother, an alcoholic street singer; her father, a circus performer; and a grandmother, a madam at a brothel. A 20-year-old street singer, she is discovered by a club owner who is soon murdered, and coached by a musician who brings her to concert halls. Her rise to fame after that was fast, and her constant companions were alcohol and heartache. The tragedies of a 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" (translated: "No, I regret nothing"). In addition to Cotillard's Best Actress Oscar, "La Vie En Rose" also took home an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Makeup. French-language film with English subtitles.
Edith Piaf is the subject of La Vie en Rose, director Olivier Dahan's powerful if emotionally redundant biographical film about the iconic French superstar whose life, as depicted here, seems to have been a numbing succession of tragedies interrupted on occasion by artistic triumph. Dahan's portrait begins with Piaf's stay in a brothel as a young girl. Left to the care of her grandmother (who runs the place) after her father pulls her away from a narcissistic mother, Piaf undergoes significant health problems and grows up to sing on the street in lieu of outright prostitution. The film pulses along with the usual biopic rhythms, with pivotal moments in the life of Piaf (played as an adult by Marion Cotillard) turning up regularly only to be smacked aside by the unseen hand of perpetual misfortune. There's the impresario (Gerard Depardieu) who recognizes Piaf's great but raw talent only to have a run-in with the criminal element around her. There's the heavyweight fighter (Marcel Cerdan) who becomes the love of Piaf's life but can't be with her. Drug addiction, random car accidents, tax problems, you name it, it's all here, topped by an unnerving revelation that pops up in La Vie en Rose's final moments. After awhile, with such a concentration of bad news squeezed into 140 minutes, one begins to wish Dahan had taken a more expansive approach to Piaf's life and times. But the film is never less than interesting, and the lead performance by Cotillard is often astonishing. --Tom Keogh