In Paris for a few days I caught the premiere of the new Edith Piaf film by Olivier Dahan. It is called La MÃ´me Piaf. It surprised me by its unique, non-linear structure. Instead of a typical biopic developing in chronological order, this one is completely broken up into sequences of her early life and later life, going back and forth at different periods, and this makes the film all the more interesting, as it emphasizes the most intensely emotional moments – her life being split into snapshots as they are caught and encapsulated into her songs – a team of songwriters is hard at work here making myth and reality coincide.
A new actress, Marion Cotillard (you canâ€™t get any more French than this name) will certainly garner much praise for her character interpretation. Apparently, Olivier Dahan researched his film for several years. His rendition is both elegant and unusual. Even the old Piaf songs that we have heard a million times are only hinted at, presented in short snippets, emphasizing a particular moment. With this kind of film one cannot help wonder about the frailty of being an icon. In Edith Piafâ€™s case, it is the myth of the tramp who becomes a lady – but not just in form as the Cockney Eliza in Shaw’s Pygmalion, but in content as well. Edith is raw, she may act vulgar but her feelings are noble. She drinks and drugs herself, she falls, but her sincerity is ever faultless. Why is great artistry so often accompanied by personal tragedy? Piaf could easily qualify as the Van Gogh of French song.