After seeing this film twice now, I think my idea of the film has become clearer. I had never heard of Edith Piaf before seeing this film, and I am ashamed of that. After seeing the film the first time, I decided to read up about her, her life and her career. One thing became very clear to me, and that was that she lived a very hard and sad life, but she was able to build this incredibly confident persona and this huge career, which is soaring now, after her death, more than ever.Director Olivier Dahan had to go to great lengths to sift through the facts of Edith’s life from her exaggerated tales, which she loved to tell. Even without the dramatised fiction, the story is very much a tear-jerker.
Edith’s parents were street performers. Her mother was a singer and her father was a contortionist. She was born into a family where performing was a way of making a living. This was also an impossible lifestyle to raise a child in, so she was dropped off with her paternal grandmother, who just happened to run a brothel in Normandy.
One thing many people are criticizing the film over is its non-linear way of story telling. She didn’t live a normal life; it was full of emotional chaos and disorder. The film doesn’t try to make sense of a life but is structured to revolve around her music, her emotions and voice. It would go against Edith’s life to try and show clarity or order when it never existed.
This is not a conventional biography. It is an experience of the life of an artist and how this artist used music as a stable force in her life. Some say it is a biography of her talent.
Piaf’s magical voice could not be recreated by anyone, let alone Marion Cotillard, who manages to embody everything that was Edith Piaf, with the exception of her voice. They used original recordings and recreated them digitally, and the results were lip-synced in a way I have never heard. Marion Cotillard physically resembles Piaf in the film, but also gives a credible impersonation of her voice. Something within her as an actress just shines through, she is able to channel Piaf in every sense, and she gives one of the best screen performances of the year, in one of the best biographies in recent years.
Directed by Olivier Dahan, written by Olivier Dahan and Isabelle Sobelman, staring Marion Cotillard, Gérard Depardieu and Emmanuelle Seigner, featuring the music of Edith Piaf, running time: 140 min
Tagline: “The extraordinary life of Edith Piaf “