Friday, April 29, 2011
Quacking BetaMax: La Vie En Rose
The winner of the 2007 Oscar for Best Actress went to Marion Cotillard for her role in the film "La Vie En Rose". The film also received the award for Makeup and nominated for Costume Design. The film is a bio-pic of Edith Piaf following the World War II era French singer from her childhood in the 1920s to her early death in 1963. The title of the film changed from "La Mome" at the debut to "La Vie En Rose" to reflect the signature song that she was first known for in 1946.
Lost in the biography films of musicians such as "Beyond the Sea" (2004) about Bobby Darin, “Ray” (2004) about Ray Charles, “Walk the Line” (2005) about Johnny Cash was “La Vie en Rose”. I knew nothing about Edith Piaf, and the lack of familiarity reduced the level of interest for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
A common complaint I have about biography films is that the center of the film is not someone that you can connect with. This is because they often focus on a period of their life and never provide the basis for why we should care about them (e.g. "Beyond the Sea"). The director solves this by not trying to reference any singular source in developing the screenplay for the life of Edith Piaf. Additionally, Marion Cotillard provides a brilliant performance without the common missteps of mimicking the character, which was so evident in "Ray" and "Walk the Line". "La Vie en Rose" is more of a character study of how a young girl that has been abandoned by both parents, raised in a brothel and the streets of Belleville, Paris can overcome the struggles that have been presented her and through the power of her art and her voice can be the strong person that she needs to be.
The nomination for the make-up is mostly because through the use of intense close-up camera work you cannot tell that there is the make-up. Those technical aspects of the movie are important, but not something I usually focus on. What really stands out is how Marion Cotillard performed through a woman in her 20s to the last years of her life in her 40s. The fragileness of The Sparrow is evident not through make-up, but through Marion Cotillard. With liver failure, a dependence on self-medication, and a temper that makes any modern female artist that thinks they are a diva look like a child it is absolutely beautiful. Marion Cotillard deserved the nomination and clearly stood out in the year from the other nominees for Best Actress. Easily a 4 Quack film and I wish I had seen this in the theater with an audience.