Edith Piaf biopic La Vie En Rose generated a buzz on the festival circuit, largely for Marion Cotillard's stunning turn as the legendary Gallic warbler. However, young writer/director Oliver Dahan also earned kudos for this "colourful, [and] hectic" fame story, which is typically underscored by tragedy.
Dahan was initially wary of the project as revealed in a half-hour Making Of documentary. He refused to write the script until producer Alain Goldman gave him certain artistic licence. Dahan explains how he conducted extensive research into Piaf's troubled childhood and drew conclusions from that (ie, the need to "feel loved") which provides the foundation of the story. He talks as well about Piaf being "the prototype of the artist" whose life informs their work.
Cameras go on location where Cotillard spends every moment "in the moment". She even takes up knitting between takes, which was a favourite pass-time of Piaf's. According to the actress (recently seen in A Good Year), the most arduous part of the shoot was sitting in the make-up chair for hours to be 'aged up' by 20 years. "I would fall asleep," she explains, "and wake up as Edith."
Of course it was all worth it. A featurette follows Cotillard to New York where she meets the press and is lavished with praise. She describes the experience as "a great adventure" and is so elated, she takes to singing from the balconies. Move over Julie Andrews.
C'est La Vie
Ten minutes of deleted footage is divided between scenes of Piaf's childhood, including more of her relationship with church-going prostitute Emmanuelle Seigner (Titine), and her dying days in New York. Piaf's second husband, Theo Sarapo even gets a look-in after being glossed over in the final cut. Piaf throws a tantrum in hospital when he announces that he's flying back to Paris and, in a later scene, admits that perhaps marrying a man 20 years her junior wasn't such a good idea.
A second documentary completes the extras menu. French critics and culture vultures examine Edith Piaf's life as told in numerous biographies and attempt to explain her enduring appeal. She's described as a working class heroine whose style of music tapped into the general malaise of the French masses. Of course an early death also helped immortalise her.
You don't have to be a fan of Edith Piaf to be moved by this film, but this DVD will certainly inspire you to look deeper into the music. And no, you won't regret it.
La Vie En Rose DVD is released on Monday 26th November 2007.