La Mome, The Kid.....That was the original nickname of Edith Piaf.
The film is released in America under the name La Vie En Rose, the name of the most recognizable Piaf song. This is a two hour plus biography of a life that packed so much into its short 45 year span that the two hours still leave you feeling that you have missed a lot of the details. Everyone knows Piaf, a few notes of her voice and she is one of the most recognizable singers of the 20th century. She attained some stardom in America and recorded some of her greatest songs in English and spent a lot of time in America. But the things that made her one of the greaterst French artists of the 20th century are the things that kept her from attaining that stardom in America.
Her essential tragedy, the rough edges, the emotion and heartbreak in her voice, she wasn't a happy easy going artist in any sense.
This movie, starring Marie Cotillard as Piaf tells the story in tragic flashbacks. A prematurely ancient Piaf in her last days is transported in time through her entire life.
What a life! Born near the end of World War 1, she is raised by her alcoholic street singing mother on the streets of Belleville, one of the poorest parts of Paris. Her father comes back to their shack and finds the baby Edith sick and neglected. He has no money and takes the baby to Brittany where his mother is a Madame of the local whore house. Edith has a relatively happy few years raised by the loving prostitutes.
When he can afford to take her, her father comes back and removes her from the brothel and she travels with him. He is a contortionist in a tawdry circus and also performs on the streets. Edith, discovers that she loves to sing and the father and daughter live on the money they make on the streets.
Years later as a young lady, she is a street singer in Montmartre, living a wild life. One day she goes down to a rich section of Paris and sings on the streets and a club owner is intrigued. The legend begins. Her authenticity and emotion and her image make her an instant sensation. The mafia kills her manager, played by Depardieu.
Soon though, she is making records and her appearances are making legend.
All through this is the emotional misfit, the insecure little hoodlum never quite fitting comfortably into the massive success. She drinks too much, she has affairs, the one big love of her life to a French championship boxer ends tragically when he dies in plane crash. She becomes addicted to morphine. Through it all, she becomes transcendent when she is on stage.
The actress, Marie Clotillard truly becomes Piaf. The singing is totally convincing.
Recordings of Piaf are cleaned up and Marie acts them with total fidelity beyond "lipsynching". Her first triumphant concert is enacted without any singing in fact!
Piaf is on stage, in agony...you hear music...but not the music of the song...she opens her mouth and silence! You watch her sing and change as she sings and the audience...but it is all done silently and works all the more effectively as a device.
This is not a greatest hits movie. This is a great emotional Piaf Biography and hopefully if it has worked its magic, you will want to run out and listen to this music with new ears and appreciate an icon. Some one that poured so much emotuion into her art and life that she was literally consumed by it!!
A Three Kleenex Rating!