44 Films: Film 18 of 44: La Môme (2007)
Film 18 0f 44:
La Môme (a.k.a. LA Vie en Rose) (2007)
Directed by Olivier Dahan
There is something to be said about a film that draws you in so deliberately, so gracefully, that you know you are a different person going out. Only, what can I say...
I first saw Marion Cotillard on a Funny Or Die skit, right before her turn as the mysterious and complex antagonist(?) in Inception, then the less complicated, slightly more laughable nemesis in The Dark Knight Rises. Then there was her indy fair, Rust and Bone and Two Days, One Night. I had known that La Môme was her tour de force, but I wasn't prepared for Cotillard's sheer might and gravitas. She hit those lofty realms of skill and commitment that define a luminary for good. I'll come back to her in a moment.
La Môme goes back and forth between moments in the inimitable French singer Edith Piaf's life. It's less linear biopic, more seminal scrapbook. After we're treated to a glimpse of Edith at her prime, we're taken back to her childhood days, on the streets, and a brothel in impoverished Normandy in the early 1900's. Her talent is discovered, as it is in this sort of story, on the street, and the rest happens as expected - the rise, awkward adjustments, further rise, more complex adjustments, the introduction of affluence, the pursuit of love; all stuff you have seen some semblance of in other biopics. Director and co-writer Dahan's dexterity, however, is in his pacing and structuring. He shuttles us back and forth from moments of stillness and normalcy to scenes of madness and haste. He has an instinct for when to bring us into the moment and when to show us out. He even knows how to manipulate us into feeling what Piaf is, right as she's feeling it, like in one scene when she receives news that snaps her out of the most delightful stupor, into the most tangible grief.
And then there's Cotillard, who doesn't just perform. She embodies fully; petite curved frame, erratic gait, penciled eyebrows, immense stage presence and all. Piaf looked down and gasped. Piaf didn't look down. She was there. With Cotillard. As Cotillard became her. As only a fellow phenomenon can.
Oh, and when the film arrives at that song, "Non, je ne regrette rien" (the one from Inception, which translates to 'No, I regret nothing'), I tell you, all becomes right with the world.
See you at No. 19!