As recent biopics like Ray and Walk The Line have attested, the path to musical stardom is usually paved with rags before riches, and so it goes that Olivier Dahan's sizeable biopic of French singer Edith Piaf is not shy of a poor-girl-turned-diva plot. Piaf (which translates as 'sparrow') lived a colourful, hectic life and Dahan has created a film to reflect this, but his fractured portrait of the singer is centred by some glorious samples of her music and a sterling central performance from Marion Cotillard.
Piaf was homeless from a young age, adopted by prostitutes and took to singing for her supper in her teens before she was spotted by a nightclub impresario. In her scant 47 years she crammed in so much, reaching dizzying heights of stardom in France, before becoming addicted to morphine and wasting into a tiny hunched figure before her untimely death. La Vie En Rose hits all the melodrama plot points in its disordered telling of Piaf's tale, a cast of characters swirling around the tiny epicentre that is Piaf and her overwhelming drive to sing.
"INVOLVING AND MOVING"
Cotillard is stunning as Piaf, convincingly assimilating the musician's looks and poise, lip synching to Piaf's songs like the woman herself. She also ages remarkably, there's not a whiff of pantomime dame in her 'elderly' make up. The supporting cast and production design that Dahan has built around her supports Cotillard much more than his urge to toy with the narrative rather than tell a straight story. But ultimately La Vie En Rose succeeds in telling an involving and moving version of Piaf's life, giving us the reasons why she told such a story of heartbreak and defiance through her music.
In French with English subtitles.
La Vie En Rose is out in UK cinemas on 22nd June 2007