July 5, 2011

Playing The Little Sparrow

Forget about Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash or Kurt Russell as Elvis. Never you mind Sissy Spaceck as Loretta Lynn or even Diana Ross as Billie Holiday. Disregard Val Kilmer's complete and utter embodiment of Jim Morrison. Stand there, pointing, laughing hysterically at George Hamilton as Hank Williams. No no, put all which has come before well out of your head, for there is a new master of the art of portraying on film a person who has actually at some point existed. And that person's name is Master Mistress Marion Cotillard.

Now, I'm no fan of Édith Piaf. Nor do I have a problem with her or her particular style of singing or genre of music. She has just never been my particular cup of tea. But I am old/wise enough to know that personal tastes can change over time, so you never know. If you'd told me twenty years ago I'd love Frank Sinatra, I'd probably have punched you in the mouth, kicked you repeatedly DeNiro style after you'd fallen over, stolen the cash from your wallet, and then left you for dead in the middle of da g.d., mutha f-in' street. No, not really. But I'd have laughed at you at the very least.

On a complete whim, and despite the film being all in French with English subtitles, I Netflixed La Vie en rose, which was released waaay back in 2007. I'd read a really good review of it as well as needed something else to put in my queue other than Mad Men season DVDs. I was pleasantly surprised by the movie but was most impressed by French actress Marion Cotillard. Wow! A lot of what happens on the screen can be attributed to the make-up artists who worked on her and aged her to match the appearance of the icon over the course of her tragedy-filled life, but nonetheless, she is Édith Piaf. Pretty amazing really. I would compare it to my experience of seeing The Buddy Holly Story back in 1978-79 before really knowing what Buddy Holly looked like or who Gary Busey was. If you can deal with subtitles, it's well worth checking out, if for any other reason, Cotillard's impressive performance. I see she's in Midnight in Paris, so, yay(!), another reason I can't wait to see that one. I also see she will be in the new Batman movie. Good on her.

Here's a little taste (first one's free) of her performance via the film's trailer:

The real deal (Holyfield), albeit lip-synced (and colorized?). Still:

And why not, translation by Satchmo:

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