La Vie En Rose is open for discussion

Our July 2007 film selection, La Vie En Rose, is now open for discussion. Members who would like to Post an Official Commentary here are welcome to do so (Contact Ron or Roger if you would like to have posting priveleges to this blogsite). Anyone, member or not, can place brief comments here by simply clicking on the comments button.


One thought on “La Vie En Rose is open for discussion

  1. We are told that Edith Piaf was beloved to the French people—often called the “Soul of France”. Born Edith Giovanna Gassion in 1915, later she became known as Piaf –the little Sparrow. Her life played out like a sad sonata –somewhere between Billy Holiday and Judy Garland; a soulful sound rising up from tragic circumstances—her depressing childhood, later indiscretions and addictions only endeared her more in the hearts of the French. Her full-throated torch singing went beyond merely rousing, into some realm of earthy magnificence that is hard to describe. Always a gamer, always ready to party the night away, within her brief time on this planet she packed in so much passion [Marcel Cerdan, Europe’s greatest boxer, was both the love of her life and a married man.], so much travel, so much music, so many affairs [Yves Montand, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Aznavour], so much booze, wine, and drugs, that her frenetic activities seemed to mask her many maladies, her significant chronic pain, and her deep sadness.

    LA VIE EN ROSE (2007) “My Merry Life”, aka LA MOME, was directed by Olivier Dahan. Always the flashy presenter, he used to be an artist, a painter, who enjoyed his own gallery shows in 1991. He began to direct films in 1994, and is most well known for dozens of music videos, all vogue with quick-cuts and glittering imagery. Watching this film was like a mixed blessing. Dahan used flashbacks, flash forwards, and scenes suspended in timelessness, all mixed up like a fragrant hobo stew; it smelled good but God knows what the next spoonful would bring. One had a very hard time staying with the point of view, or even the actual decade he was jumping around in; spiraling from 1920 to 1960 with the speed of a humming bird, flitting into a blur, only pausing momentarily here and there to suck up some honey. So we had to note the cars, the fashions, and the décor trying to keep up, to put the kaleidoscope into a modicum of focus.

    In essence we open on the dying Piaf, and the flash-abouts were explication, exposition, and even exploitation. In one of the earliest sections we meet Edith at 5 years old, played by Manon Chevallier. Her mother is a street singer, prone to melancholy and drink, who abandons first her soldier husband, and then the child, leaving Edith with her equally dysfunctional grandmother. Her father (Jean-Paul Rove), a circus contortionist, returns and takes custody of her, by this time 10 years old and played by Pauline Barlet. He found her ill, depressed, undernourished, and nearly blind. He took her to live with his mother, who happened to manage a brothel. The prostitutes adopt Edith, nursing her back to health, and providing her with a touch of affection. What she learns in that whore house would color her behavior for the rest of her life. The father, an unstable temperamental hard-drinking egotist, pulled her own of the lifestyle, and they lived as street performers. He wore a tuxedo, and he performed his contortionist act. It was not creating enough revenue, so one day Edith was asked to “sing” for her keep. She did sing, becoming popular on the streets, with a voice that was already remarkable.

    Marion Cotillard played Edith, and her magnificent transformation physically was truly remarkable. She found the right gait, the stooped posture, the arthritic awkwardness while using her hands and shoulders, and her incredible visceral passion for belting out a tune. She really did strike up bird imagery as she hopped about. She actually did some of her own singing, but Dahan looped Edith Piaf’s actual voice over it. For the singing voice of the younger Edith, they used French singer Jil Argrot. Cotillard shaved back her hairline and her eyebrows to achieve the Piaf “look”, and emerged as a dead ringer for the real thing. She had to endure five hours at the make up table to do the dying Edith scenes. Cotillard actually is a 32 year old gorgeous woman. She played the love interest, Fanny, in Ridley Scott’s A GOOD YEAR (2006), with Russell Crowe –and she was Josephine in Tim Burton’s BIG FISH (2003).

    Sylvie Testud was interesting as the life-long friend, Momone. Gerard Depardieu scored high in his cameo as the homosexual nightclub owner Louis Leplee. Jean-Pierre Martins made a good impression played Marcel Cerdon –Europe’s greatest boxer. Cerdon’s death after a plane crash had a strong emotional context thanks mostly to the titanic chewing up of the scenery that Cotillard managed. For those who want to know more about Piaf’s great love affair, view Claude Lelouch’s film EDITH ET MARCEL (1983). Caroline Sihol was sweet in her brief cameo as Marlene Dietrich.

    Even as long and mildly turgid as LA VIE EN ROSE was, still a lot of Piaf’s significant life events were missing. Most of us would have appreciated sub-titles under all the French songs. Perhaps they are French standards as tunes, but the rest of the world would like to have known, or read the lyrics. There was no mention of Piaf’s exciting exploits as a resistance fighter against the Nazis in WWII –nor was there any specific mention of many of her more famous lovers [She discovered Yves Montand and beds him, along with Charles Aznavour, and even Maurice Chevalier.] –nor was her important and significant friendship with Marlene Dietrich, who was a maid of honor for Piaf’s wedding –nor any reference or mention of her last husband, an older man she was married to for 10 years; all were absent, left out. The focus was mostly on her tumultuous affair with her boxer, Marcel Cerdan. In EDITH ET MARCEL, Edith Piaf was played by Evelyne Bouix, and Cerdan was played by Marcel Cerdan Jr. He took over the part from Patrick Dewaere, who had been cast as Marcel, but who committed suicide in the early weeks of shooting.

    There have been other films about Edith Piaf. There was PIAF: The Early Years (1974), directed by Guy Casaril, with Brigitte Ariel as Edith Piaf. Included is PIAF (1984), A TV film with Jane Lapotaire as Edith Piaf, also starring Jean Smart and Judith Ivey. A stunning concert film was PIAF: Her Story, Her Songs (2003). This film featured songstress Raquel Bitton actually singing all of the Piaf songs, and doing a great rendition; so much nicer that watching an actress lip-synch. There is a good documentary too, LES HOMMES DE PIAF (2003), narrated by Charles Aznavour. For those who were paying attention we heard Edith Piaf singing on the soundtrack of Spielberg’s SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998).

    Today most of us in this country do not remember Edith Piaf, nor do we know much about her life. LA VIE EN ROSE only wetted my appetite relative to this enigmatic singer, patriot, and party girl. I resented Dahan’s jarring rock video style of editing, but I enjoyed the art design and the actual music; what we heard of it. Of course I, too, was blown away by Marion Cotillard’s powerful and touching performance.

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