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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).

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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…

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Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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