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La Vie en Rose – a French afternoon in New York City

{mosimage}Before getting to the review of this astonishing film, let me tell you about how I came to see it. On my way back from the States last Wednesday I had a seven hour layover in Newark. I don't much enjoy hanging around airports for hours, so I took the 30 minute train ride into Manhattan. Wandering up the road from Maddison Square Gardens I heard a smart-suited African speaking French into his 'cellulaire'. Wondering if he was from Côte d'Ivoire where we used to live, I followed him through a shop doorway. As my eyes adjusted to the rather greasy gloom, I noted that I had entered a little Caribbean bakery/restaurant full of black faces. I forced back the temptation to make a quick exit and joined him at the back of the queue at the counter. He turned out to be Senegalese rather than Ivorian, but was very pleased to have another chance to talk French…

After a tasty $7 lunch of 'stew chicken with rice & beans' and a
portion of fried plantains, I headed on up 8th Avenue. A few blocks
further on I came to a cinema and decided that it would be great to see
a 'movie' on a real big screen rather than the way I see most films
these days through the distinctly low-def screen built into the back of
the airline seat in front of me.

I was just in time to buy tickets for La Vie en Rose which was
starting right away. Entering the big 'movie theater' I was shocked
that at four on  a Wednesday afternoon the place was packed solid. As
my eyes adjusted and hunted for an empty seat I observed that I was
once again  the stranger – almost everyone there appeared to be over
sixty. Perhaps it was the cheap day for seniors or the fact that La Vie
en Rose had only opened a few days earlier but the film definitely
merits a wide audience.

Perhaps
you are put off by foreign language films with subtitles, but to have
dubbed this from French would have been a crime. It is a biopic of the
life of Edith Piaf whose theme song was La Vie en Rose – literally
'Life in Pink' but more idiomatically 'The Rose-tinted Life'. Edith
Piaf's gravelly voice and melodramatic life is superbly portrayed by
Marion Cotillard as the film works its way through her life to the
accompaniment of her distinctive songs. Of course, as in all French
films which make it to the anglophone world, there is a role for THE French Actor as
we like to call Gerard Depardieu; he is the impressario who literally
discovers 'the Little Sparrow' singing in the backstreets of
Montmartre.

It was quite a puzzle to place each scene in
chronological order as the film jumps around through more flashbacks
and flash forwards than an entire season of Lost. Apart from
that though, La Vie en Rose is an absolute triumph, rich with the
colours of Piaf's tragic life. The entire audience stuffed damp
handkerchiefs into their pockets, rose to their feet and applauded this guaranteed
oscar winner. Piaf finished her career singing a song which she felt
summed up her life – Non je ne regrette rien! Take your friends to see this classic film and you'll have no regrets either.

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