Friday, October 05, 2007

Review: La Vie en Rose

A Picturehouse Entertainment release 2007

Directed by Olivier Dahan

Written by Olivier Dahan & Isabelle Sobelman

The extraordinary life and times of famed French singer Edith Piaf (Marion Cotillard)

Like most biopics, this incredibly uneven but suprisingly moving portrait of Edith Piaf, one of France's national treasures, relies heavily on the performance of its lead, Marion Cotillard. Thankfully she nails Piaf to a tee, capturing her movements and manneurisms with such precision it's almost uncanny.

If only the script did her performance justice. Dahan's presentation of periods in Piaf's life is so scatterbrained, it's almost hard to tell what is going on. The film does an incredible amount of jumping back and forth through time in the most illogical of ways; snippets from Piaf's childhood are connected to her final days or mid-life antics without any real causal connection, thematically or emotionally. The poor pacing results in a fragmented portrait of this powerful artist, one that leaves the spectator feeling as though they are missing something, despite the film's two and a half hour plus run time.

If you're already a fan of Piaf, then you're sure to love this film. If not, stick to the soundtrack - it'll tell you all you need to know.

Revisit: Force of Evil

An MGM film 1948

Directed by Abraham Polonsky

Writing by Abraham Polonsky & Ira Wolfert

Lawyer Joe Morse (John Garfield) wants to consolidate all small-time numbers racket operators into one big powerful operation. But he is met with conflict from his elder brother Leo (Thomas Gomez), who as one of those small-time operators prefers not to deal with the gangsters who dominate the big-time.

Watch a clip from Force of Evil here!

Abraham Polonksy's directorial debut is a noir masterpiece, a film that effectively depicts a world rampant with greed, corruption, and dispair. Polonsky, who had already achieved a name for himself as a scriptwriter, most notably for the gritty boxing film Body and Soul also starring John Garfield, was eventually blacklisted under the HUAC communist investigations. Watching Force of Evil, it's hard to separate Polonsky's political views from the story, which comes off as a strong critique of capitalist practices. However, the film contains with such beautiful wordplay and lingual puns that it's almost breathtaking. Likewise, the complex relationship between the brothers forms a delicate psychological, emotional and narrative core - a great example of powerful noir filmmaking. The film was a key influence on Scorsese's Raging Bull and, surprisingly enough, was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. A must see.