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Vie en Rose, La


Stars: Marion Cotillard, Gerard Depardieu, Jean-Pierre Martins, Emmanuelle Seigner, Catherine Allegret

Director: Olivier Dahan

Legendary French singer Edith Piaf certainly had a hard life - an obligatory requirement these days for a film biopic. But hers was remarkable by any standards. Abandoned by her failed-singer mother at five, while her father, a circus contortionist, was serving in World War One, she was raised in a brothel, then taken away by her father to work with him in the circus.

When he quits, they become street entertainers - unsuccessful until the nine-year-old Edith starts singing. Soon, she is the breadwinner. Discovered by a club owner (Depardieu), now-teenage Edith is an overnight sensation, but has to rebuild her career after a scandal (for which she is blameless).

By her mid twenties, her powerful, vibrant, imploring voice has made her the nation's greatest chanteuse. But she is not lucky in love. Like Judy Garland, Piaf died at 47, her tiny, hunched body racked by cancer and arthritis and riddled with drugs.

Cotillard is absolutely extraordinary in this role and will rightly be showered with awards. She is Piaf to the life, and her depiction of the singer's death-bed hours is almost too painful to watch.

The film itself, though impressively mounted, rather lets her down, switching bewilderingly between various periods in Piaf's life, until you scarcely know where you are without a date on screen. Although the movie has some splendid emotional scenes, this jolting narrative device robs of it of any momentum, and makes you wonder if a longer, more linear account might have done the subject more justice.

Rightly, the film closes on Piaf's ringing rendition of Je Ne Regrette Rien - though you do feel that her whole life, lived constantly on the edge, probably filled her with regrets.

David Quinlan

France 2007. UK Distributor: Icon. Central Color.
140 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 07 Feb 2008