A biopic about the legendary international singing icon Edith Piaf (Marion Cotillard), whose voice and talent captivated the world. The remarkable artist was born into poverty but survived using the only gift she had – her voice. Piaf's tragic life was a constant battle to sing and survive, to live and love, with no regrets.

An extraordinary, captivating cinema experience that deserves recognition.

It’s little surprise that the film chosen to open the Sydney Film Festival this year is one that has wowed audiences wherever it has screened.

The idea for this ambitious film started with a text message that writer-director Olivier Dahan wrote to his producer back in 2004. It read"¦ 'a movie about music and love. A tragic, romantic blockbuster. French subject matter, international appeal. A major film about Piaf". Well they have indeed succeeded with La Vie En Rose - an extraordinary film and one that moved me deeply.

This lavish biopic pays tribute to the turbulent life of legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf. From poverty stricken early childhood to her last anguished days in pain, the film spans over four decades, so we are given an incredible glimpse into the private life of this tragic French icon.

It is interesting to note that writer / director Dahan is an art school rather than a film school graduate. His film is visually so fascinating and the narrative avoids any linear structure, which allows him to link ideas and sequences as we would in a memory or a dream.

This can at times be a little confusing, so unless you’re an ardent Piaf fan, you might want to do some reading up on her before seeing this film. However I found it quite satisfying not having it all laid out for me.

The production design by Oliver Raoux wonderfully compliments cinematographer Tetsuo Nagata beautiful photography.

Together they capture both the lushness and the harshness of Piaf’s incredible life. And of course all the scenes are offset by the haunting singing voice of Piaf herself. Her music reflected so much of the pain and suffering that she was experiencing in her own life that the effect at times was quite chilling.

All the performances are wonderful. Gerard Depardieu is so good as Louis Leplee who gave Piaf her first big break and Emmanuelle Seigner is compelling as the prostitute Titine who falls in love with the little girl

However it is Marion Cotillard as Piaf who took my breath away. She did not act Piaf she was Piaf. She captures not only Piaf’s unique stance but her voice as well and the effect is devastating. Dahan knew she would be perfect for the role and together they bring to screen Piaf’s thirst for life, love and experience. It is well worth the price of admission just to see Cotillard’s Piaf as it is a tour de force performance.

This film has already won a swag of Cesars and I expect to see it at next years Oscars.

Rarely does a film offer me so much. I’m giving it 4.5 stars.


Watch 'La Vie en Rose'

Tuesday 18 May, 9:10pm on SBS World Movies (streaming after at SBS On Demand)
Thursday 20 May, 12:20pm on SBS World Movies

France, 2007
Genre: Music, Drama, Biography
Language: French
Director: Olivier Dahan
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Gérard Depardieu, Emmanuelle Seigner, Sylvie Testud

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