La Vie En Rose (La Môme) – a review
In fact all the performances in the film are sensitively handled, not least the understated part of Louis Leplée, the night-club owner who ‘discovered’ Piaf, played by Gérard Depardieu.
She was a damaged personality. Her earliest years in Paris were spent in the company of her neglectful mother, a street-singer; and later, as a small child she was brought up first in a brothel in Normandy by her grandmother, and later, with her father, in a travelling circus. Both venues, you may agree, capable of offering a sound grounding for someone who was to spend her adult life as an entertainer.
As portrayed in the film she is a woman dogged by a frail constitution and ill health, but also someone who never considered compromising in any way. She is not shown as particularly sympathetic here, often raging, capable of tyrannical behaviour, deep into substance abuse (injected cocktails of morphine and cortisone), her eyes popping with the effect of alcohol on her liver, her physical bearing twisted and deformed by arthritis.
And yet the film held my attention throughout. A certain voyeurism is activated by watching a fated destiny unfold, and the way that Marion Cotillard engages the eye, the camera concentrating on her lips, her hair-line, her eyes, the way that she is never, not even for a moment, comfortable in her own body – all of these factors keep you concentrated on the screen. Add to that the engaging set-piece scenes of early twentieth century Montmartre, fight night at Madison Square Gardens, and the Normandy countryside, and you’ll be hooked in your seat for the duration of the film.
The lighting is quirky, sometimes kitsch and although many scenes are filmed in semi-darkness, the film is not overly depressing. I came away with the feeling that, in spite of the terrible things Piaf had to endure, both as a child and an adult, there was almost always someone, and often more than a single person, who was loyal to her and who gave of themselves way beyond the call of duty.
This is not a great film, but there is much to recommend it and I suspect it will linger in the memory for some time to come. The central performance is brilliant and the music is wonderful. Non je ne regrette rien.