The Little Sparrow With a Mighty Voice
As a child Edith Piaf lived between various people; her mother who was an alcoholic street singer, her father who was a circus performer and her grandmother who was a madam at a brothel. Despite the uncertainty of her young life and losing her sight for a while Edith survives and in her 20s also becomes a street singer which is where club owner Louis Leplée discovers her and has her sing in his club, wowing audiences as "The Little Sparrow". But life continues to throw her a curve ball and whilst her rise to fame is rapid it is accompanied by heartache and liberal amounts of alcohol as she seeks to blunt the pain of various tragedies.
One of my favourite songs of all time is "La Vie en Rose" although to be honest the rendition I like is one by Cristin Milioti which is filled with vulnerability that it never fails to move me. But of course the most famous version of the song is by Edith Piaf and her version has a different sound to it which conjures up images of the worn streets of a Mediterranean town with the warm sun illuminating them.
The trouble for me is that beyond "La Vie en Rose" and "Non, je ne regrette rien" I know nothing else about the legendary Edith Piaf and having now watched the biopic "La Vie en Rose" I would say its best watched with knowledge of the star with some understanding of her life or else it is a bit hard going. That trouble comes from a narrative which leaps back and forth between events in the life of Piaf going from her being a child living in a brothel to then suddenly jumping to Piaf at the height of her fame and drinking heavily. Eventually you do get to understand where you are in Piaf's life story but it is a bit of work.
Ignoring the issues with the narrative there is no denying that "La Vie en Rose" is a powerful movie with a stunning look from the grime on the streets when Piaf was a little child to the glamorous facade of the theatre where she performed with the behind the scenes of course not being so glamorous. There is also for those who are unaware the astonishing turbulent life of Piaf and when you realise what she went through it is amazing.
But "La Vie en Rose" is a movie which is owned by Marion Cotillard who throws herself in to the role bringing to the screen the joy and heartache of Piaf's life and the toughness the young Piaf had to establish to survive in a world where she could have been forced to become a prostitute. Even if you struggle following the story and struggle with the subtitles just watching Cotillard's embodiment of Piaf is enough for you to understand what is going on.
What this all boils down to is that "La Vie en Rose" isn't going to be a movie for everyone and to be honest for those who don't know Piaf's life story are likely to find it at times hard to follow. But the look, the music and most importantly the performance from Marion Cotillard make it a powerful movie none the less.