Friday, April 15, 2011

La Vie En Rose

Olivier Dahan, 2007, France (8.8*)
Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in this biopic was jaw-dropping, beyond acting into art. I'd have to say best all-time top 3, maybe the best. The only other two that even come close for me are Liz Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Daniel-Day Lewis in My Left Foot, as far as actors being so immersed in the roles that they weren't recognizable as themselves after about 5 minutes.

The difference in the two is that Marion made me cry in happy scenes (when Marlene Dietrich came to her table after a song and told her she had "taken her back to Paris") and cry in sad scenes, something no one else has done.

Marion plays Piaf (a name given by a nightclub manager who found her on the street, Louis Leplée, played here by Gerard Depardieu, it means "sparrow") from about age 16 to her death at 47 of liver failure, after a lifetime of booze and heroin. At one point she was shooting up 10 times a day - she told the doctor "so my body will stop screaming" or something like that. This film also shows her childhood, which had a lot to do with developing her character, her singing, and her outlook on life.

Director Olivier Dahan (a young-looking 40 when he made this), read every published book on Piaf, and some unpublished manuscripts in the Paris Biblioteque as well. He said that he didn't want any one version to become the story.

Marion watched every interview and film of Edith, and didn't want to imitate her (her voice is much deeper but she made it work right away). Director Dahan said after 2 weeks they never spoke, Marion got it all intuitively.

The Oscar®-winning makeup, headed by Didier Lavergne after several others dropped out, saying "it can't be done", was about the best ever. She looked 65-70 in her 40's (and Dahan shot lots of closeups in the old face), bent over, shaking, half bald - this was very tough to watch but definitely worth it.

It's amazing to me that she only won 17 acting awards for this, and the Oscar® of course, when they give out about 30-35 (Helen Mirren won 30 for The Queen, that's the most for a lead role I've found, this has far more depth and real acting than that). I can't believe 13 others beat her that year. It had to be awards from people who hadn't seen it, that's all that makes sense.

It took me awhile (3 years) to get up the courage to watch this, as I already knew Piaf's life story; it's a tough, dreary one with little sunshine. (Personally, I would have given up about age 25)

The film won 2 Oscars®, 4 BAFTAs, 5 French academy awards (Césars). Overall it won 31 awards out of 64 nominations.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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