Sunday evening, after I had finished watching The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, I started watching this film. On the surface, they have some comparables. Both in French with subtitles, both with Oscar nominations, this one, deservedly, for actress Marion Cotillard, who I last saw in the previews for – but the actual film – A Good Year with Russell Crowe. Both also touch on going to a physical location of great spiritual significance, though while Diving Bell’s Bauby tends to dismiss it, it’s a more recurring theme here.
This is a more conventional biopic about chaunteuse Edith Piaf, starting off with her terrible childhood of illness and abandonment until she is literally pushed by her father to perform. Then we see the grown-up Edith move from street corner busker to the highest levels of stardom, only to be brought down by her addictions to alcohol and drugs, so that when (hardly a SPOILER ALERT) she dies at age 47, she looks about 20 years older.
The film is good, but it’s long. I started it Sunday night (saw 90 minutes) and finished it Monday morning (another 45 minutes), which is not a fair way to see it. The other problem I had is that Piaf, at times, reminded me of Judy Garland in the early 1960s, another child singer who had reached great fame but also great tragedy because of her addictions. In fact, Cotillard looks and acts at times remarkably like Judy Davis in the 2001 TV movie Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows. I know this is MY hangup, but there it is.
See it for yourself and let me know what you think.
One last thing. The DVD EXTRAS involved all of less than eight minutes of Cotillard and writer/director Olivier Dahan talking about the process of getting the Piaf character; trés disappointing.