Saturday, May 12, 2007

La Vie en Rose!!

The Closing Night film of the could not have been more extraordinary. An outstanding performance by Marion Cotillard as "the little sparrow", is certain to garner a raft of well deserved awards and applause, accenting the festival's anniversary celebration. Director Olivier Dahan in the Q & A after the film screening, on stage at the glorious Castro Theater (pictured below), speaking in English and native French, emphasized it was not intended as a "biopic, but rather a character study of what it means to be an artist. Piaf's life, beset by lifelong adversity, died at 47, appearing to be 70. Hundreds of thousands of Parisians attended her funeral, where she is buried at the Pere-Lachaise Cemetary (also the subject of another SFIFF film, Forever, by Heddy Honigmann). Her voice was the voice of France. Her spirit is that of eternal need for creative expression. Les vies de la France! - MS

The ferocious talent and indomitable spirit of legendary chanteuse Edith Piaf is celebrated in this French feast of a biopic, featuring a stunning performance by Marion Cotillard as the "little sparrow" who lived, loved and sang with no regrets. A huge hit in France and winner of five Césars, La Vie en Rose arrives on these shores with its uniquely Gallic blend of onstage triumph, backstage tragedy and tempestuous melodrama intact. Skillfully sifting time periods, far-flung locales and extremes of mood and imagery, director Olivier Dahan delivers far more than the standard biopic. Jumping with emotional, if not sequential, logic among pivotal periods in Piaf's life—from her Balzacian childhood as the daughter of a circus acrobat and alcoholic prostitute, her upbringing in a brothel and her discovery by nightclub owner Louis Leplée (Gérard Depardieu) to her passionate affair with boxer Marcel Cedan, years of drug addiction and a hallucinatory final night in Grasse—the film indulges its heroine’s unquenchable thirst for life, love and experience. Marion Cotillard, recently seen opposite Russell Crowe in A Good Year, undergoes an astonishing physical transformation and bravely navigates extreme highs and lows to fully embody Piaf, right down to the arched eyebrows, prominent front teeth and wild-eyed, almost feral fierceness with which she approached her relationships and art. "There’s more to life than songs," best friend Mômone (Sylvie Testud) insists, but to this brilliant interpreter of "Milord," "Mon Dieu," and "Non, je ne regrette rien," songs mean more than life itself. By the time Dahan and Cotillard present Piaf at her final concert at L’Olympia, with Yves Montand, Charles Aznavour and Jean Cocteau in attendance and the whole world waiting to hear that tremulous vibrato, La Vie en Rose has reached a pinnacle of emotion befitting the ultimate diva. C’est formidable!—Steven Jenkins

(l., Cotillard, transformed to r., Piaf)

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