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“La Vie En Rose”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose,” Picturehouse Entertainment, 2007]

A confused and awkward movie gets in the way of its own remarkable lead performance in “La Vie en Rose,” the story of famous French songbird Edith Piaf. Though writer/director Olivier Dahan claims in “La Vie”‘s press notes that he “didn’t want to make a biopic,” he has done exactly that. Burdened by the overwhelming weight of its subject’s endless tragedies, its running time and narrative are as bloated as its star performance, by Marion Cotillard, is refined to precision.

Piaf was one of the most popular French singers of the 20th century and before, during, and after her ascent to superstardom, her life was packed with enough personal horror to fill a particularly juicy very special episode of “Behind the Music.” Abandoned by her parents, cared for her brothel madam of a grandmother, Edith was blind by age three, and begging for pocket change by 13. A few strokes of good luck transformed the street performer into a popular nightclub singer, but her career was nearly derailed when the man who discovered and nurtured her talent (played here by Gérard Depardieu) winds up murdered. Edith overcomes that obstacle and many more along the way to becoming a French icon, but not before she has torrid affairs with married men, loses a loved one to a plane crash and is sent to an early grave by morphine addiction and cancer. Like most biopics of this ilk — those about tremendously famous individuals who did great things — the focus remains on big dramatic story beats rather than a coherent narrative as a whole.

Cotillard plays Piaf almost entirely herself, from the gutter to the grave. Thanks in part to a remarkable makeup job, she is tremendously convincing, even as Piaf grows so sickly that she comes to more closely resemble Nosferatu than her younger vivacious incarnations. Cotillard seems to age, not just physically, but emotionally as well: her voice, her eyes, everything changes about her over the course of Piaf’s deterioration.

Dahan shows us all of the “important” moments but follows the flow of Piaf’s life very loosely, juxtaposing images of the old Piaf with those of the young. What’s missing, unfortunately, is any sense of the transformation between these women: the one who had to sing on the street to avoid prostitution; the one who was a national treasure and the one who, just a few years later, could barely feed herself. The lack of any connective tissue between these eras undermines Cotillard’s performance because it removes a sense of coherence from her work. The transitions are at times so jarring they hurt the otherwise seamless illusion that Cotillard creates in the role.

Dahan makes other strange choices. At Piaf’s greatest moment of onstage triumph he removes her voice from the soundtrack so we can’t hear it and, in general, he doesn’t bring any sense of magic or power to Edith’s theatrical exploits and, say what you will about “Ray” or “Walk the Line” they at least gave those musical numbers a buzz of excitement. Dahan also seems to have no interest in the part of Piaf’s life that might be the single most fascinating — the period where she went from a woman of no money and zero self-confidence to a massive egomaniacal diva — and spends at least ten minutes of an already distended narrative turning a largely inconsequential boxing match into his very own “Raging Bull.” And by bringing in the decrepit Piaf so early, and by returning to her over and over during the nearly two-and-a-half hour movie, he creates the impression that “The Little Sparrow,” as she was known, spent most of her life dying rather than living.

The ending, where Piaf comes to grips with her own mortality, is effectively sad; the rest is just sadly ineffective, and “La Vie en Rose” never justifies a full third of its running time. When you don’t particularly care about the person at the heart of a movie this jumbled, it’s more difficult to look past the flaws to enjoy its star. “La Vie en Rose” treats Cotillard almost as shabbily as life treated Piaf.

“La Vie en Rose” opens in limited release June 8th (official site).


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…