Monday, January 07, 2008

La Vie En Rose: Grade D

La Vie En Rose (2007)
Marion Cotillard, Sylvie Testud; Co-writer and director: Oliver Dahan. (French, subtitled)

Cotillard gives a convincing portrayal of French chanteuse Edith Piaf, who was enormously popular in Europe and America from the 1930’s through the 1950’s. My high school French teacher used to play her records for the class, so the songs are familiar and nostalgic to me, although I did not realize until I saw this movie how perfect Piaf’s diction really was and that is probably why the teacher played the tunes. Cotillard lip syncs the songs perfectly, and the songs and “the voice” are the reason I give this movie a pass. There is nothing else to recommend it. Nearly every scene is indoors and the lighting is so dark, as if everything were lit by cheap candles. Walls are green and brown. Costumes are green and brown. Shadows are deep. Look at the DVD cover. The whole look of the movie is murky and muddy. Though Piaf sang through two world wars, there is little sense of history or geography. The unnecessarily zooming and panning camera is often distracting to the action. Acting is only adequate. Even Cotillard, who gives a 100% performance, is bound by the tedious, melodramatic script. The narrative alternates between scenes of adult aging and childhood flashbacks, which is interesting but goes on for an unjustified 2 hours and 10 minutes, with numerous scenes apparently designed only for tear-jerk potential. She was raised in a brothel, how awful. As a child she was blinded by an eye inflammation for months, how awful. But these scenes and many like them contribute nothing to our understanding of the character. The adult Piaf never refers to them, and the filmmakers never suggest that they had any effect whatsoever on her. So why are they in the movie? At the end of this biopic, I know next to nothing about Edith Piaf except she liked to sing, drank too much, and was lonesome. That could describe a lot of people. There is nothing here that explains the great Piaf-Piaf.

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