“La Vie en Rose” is a vivid depiction of the troubled but valiant life of a real artist in a genuine rags-to-riches tale.
The life of Edith Piaf, perhaps the greatest of all French singers and a contemporary of Billie Holiday, is the subject of this cinematic masterpiece. It is an artistic creation with class. It is warm, touching, inspirational and educational. It is a vivid depiction of the troubled but valiant life of a real artist in a genuine rags-to-riches tale that does not measure success in terms of only money. The writer and director have taken the mostly miserable and tragic life of an extra-ordinary person and gracefully shown how one’s passion for and commitment to a cause can protect that individual from the forces of self-destruction and project her out of the darkest of tunnels. This movie, despite its sad and wrenching scenes, gracefully portrays the ultimate triumph of will over adversity, hope over despair, and, excellence over mediocrity.
Some may hesitate to see this film because of French subtitles. Don’t. No one in the world is as slow a reader as I am. The story is so intriguing and the acting so demonstrative that even I followed it the first time. Dubbing it would have undoubtedly multiplied the viewers but would have diluted the taste. I like the fact that the production is very French. Yet, because the message is so powerful, I wish it could also be presented as dubbed in many languages so more of us, especially the youth, would benefit from the life and deed of this great woman.
Born in 1915 to a neglectful and alcoholic mother who barely made a living by singing in streets and bars and a father who struggled with poverty by performing in circuses and on street corners as a contortionist, Piaf’s transcendence into a super-singer of international caliber and fame during her short life of 48 years is indeed magical. Her genetic predisposition to chemical dependency, which rarely occurs without depression, the despicable physical and social environment within which she was born and raised, a mother with artistic potential, and an independent-minded father who loved performing but loved her more, created Edith Giovanna Gassion. What propelled her into evolving into Edith Piaf (Little Sparrow), however, was her inner unconditional love for artistic expression combined with an indomitable quest for excellence. Nothing stopped her—not even acute mental pain and debilitating physical ailment. She won the battle against oblivion.
Great cinema does not always need vehicle chases, blood and gore. This film is true art in that it delicately weaves the biography of a unique human being with the fabric of visual creativity. I want to see it again and again for the sound of Piaf’s voice; the Oscar-worthy performance of Marion Cotillard, who must be Piaf’s alter-ego; and, the mosaic of scenes of tragedy, filth, despondency, cruelty, compassion, colors, music, Paris, New York, smiles, appreciation, elation, accolades, the sea, love, and death with dignity.