Hollywood Hues
Visual feast

Olivier Dahanís La Vie En Rose, based on Edith Piafís life, is a composite portrayal of this
eccentric artiste and her chequered career, writes Ervell E Menezes

Marion Cottilard is brilliant as the lead actor in Olivier Dahanís La Vie En Rose
Marion Cottilard is brilliant as the lead actor in Olivier Dahanís La Vie En Rose

EDITH Piaf is one of Franceís most celebrated singers and it is said that the few occasions the Champs de Elyses was packed with humanity was when she sang. Olivier Dahanís La Vie En Rose (or "Life in the Pink") is a composite portrayal of this tempestuous, eccentric artiste and her chequered career as the film goes back and forth in time and space to provide a kaleidoscopic image of that great historical figure.

From humble beginnings, Edith Piaf (Marion Cottilard), who was very nearly an orphan (her mother wanted to concentrate on her career and her father was a contortionist, who occasionally cared for her) and had to undergo all kinds of humiliation to finally make it to the top. The camera gives us a rounded picture of the great singer in various stages of her life. Edith was adopted by Titine (Emmanuelle Seigner) and reared in a brothel and had to adapt to the different roles in order to survive.

The flashbacks and montage-like image provided by director Dahan, from the 70-year-old matriarch to the little girl of five and 10 (played by Mannon Chevalier and Pauline Burlet) may seem a wee bit distracting and uneasy to follow but in due time, after 140 minutes of intense cinema, one surely comes out with a graphic picture of this temperamental artiste.

Ironically, it was her performing father who gives Edith her first break in singing, something she pursues closely. Momone (Sylvie Testud) is her hard drinking companion on her singing rounds of the streets chaperoned by Louis Barrier (Pascal Gregory), who she has a child with but we only know of it later in the film. Then there are the contacts and admirers, including Louis Laple (Gerard Depardieu), Raymond Asso (Mark Barbe) and celebrities like Marlene Dietrich and female companions like Annette (Clotilde Coureau) and composer Marguirite (Marie Arnelle Deguy) who flit in an out of the frame and her life.

But the foremost of all is French boxer Marcel Cerdan (Jean-Pierre Martins) with whom she falls madly in love with and it is here that Dahan is at his very best. The film scales even Bergmanesque heights in this depiction. That she was also married comes across almost incidentally but it only shows how transient her associations could be and yet when it mattered they bordered on the sublime.

It is an imaginative screenplay that reaches out to little details and catches dramatic moments but the whole is mounted on a lavish, epic scale. The songs she reels out are many and the spotlight on her on the stage almost etched with her performances. On and on they go with La Vie en rose one of the most catchy. The twilight years, when her health lets her down and the funny things she does to maintain her beauty are even poignant when we see the one-time "little sparrow" now in her imminent decline.

Marion Cottilard is absolutely brilliant in the lead role with becoming change of moods and displaying a wide range of histrionics in the bargain She is ably supported by Jean-Pierre Martins as her great love. The others are merely cameos like Sylvie Testud, Emmanuelle Siegner, Gerard Depardieu and Pascal Gregory. This visual feast is beautifully shot by cinematographer Testud Nugata to make for ideal and satiating entertainment.