La Vie en Rose

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Hauling through the many French films that are languishing in my DVD box (still shamefully wrapped up in the cellophane they were bought in) and in dire need of some filmic action for my Paris in July, my eyes roved over French Blockbuster and multi-award winning film La Vie en Rose, starring the beautiful, ferocious Marion Cotillard, which I, rather embarrassingly, have only watched once in my lifetime so far.

Listening to the cheesy ‘Parisian café’ mix CDs at University, Édith Piaf was a name for me that became synonymous with the beautiful city, its boulevards, love, romance – the works. How blasé I was to resign this powerful woman to a world of frippery and pain au chocolats

Oliver Dahan’s screen interpretation of the great singer’s life and loves is by turns harrowing and exhilarating. Following Édith ‘Piaf’ (a nickname meaning ‘Little Sparrow’) from her very beginnings in the streets and brothels of Northern France to international stardom and a premature demise, Dahan’s impressive piece of cinema, led by a completely convincing, heart-wrenching portrayal of the singer herself by Cotillard, is magnificent.

The scenes that follow the singer as a young, impoverished woman, careering around the streets of Montmartre touched me much more, surprisingly, than those of a sick, aging Piaf (though having said that she was only 47 when she died)  clinging onto her career. The cobbles, bars and quirks all reminded me of our time there when I used to waltz around fancying myself as a 1920s flapper girl or, even more tantilisingly, a starving yet deeply inspired young artist…

Although Cotillard’s inspired performance is undoubtedly impressive, only lulling for a much-needed romantic interlude in the middle of the film, it is Jil Aigrot (a shamefully little-known Algerian vocalist) ‘s mind-blowingly strong voice and original recordings of Piaf herself that really bring the story to life. Although her lifestyle would eventually prove to be her downfall, contrary to the corny locations where you often encounter her songs nowadays, Piaf was the quintessential tortured artist; deeply in-love, drug addled, free-spirited…..she would definitely have a place at my ultimate dinner party … if she’d accept the invite of course…

 L’accordéoniste -Édith Piaf

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Little Sparrow by (OvO) via Flickr

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