La Vie En Rose

When my Dad announced that he’d taped a subtitled French film for us to watch on a Saturday night I was, I will admit, dismayed. One might even go so far as to say that I was appalled. A French film? French? Really? Oscar-winner my foot – I just wanted to watch Kung Fu Panda . . .

I was determined not to like the film, and nurtured a faint hope that if I fidgeted about in my seat enough, it might get turned off and replaced with something better.

The fact that the recording had cut the first few minutes off didn’t make it any easier to get into for it seemed to start with a little kid running amok in a brothel – how very French, right? But then she was taken away by her father to join the circus, and suddenly the film was interesting. I’ve never been so engrossed in a film that wasn’t in English before. What I loved so much about it was the sense of melancholy captured not only by the truly outstanding acting, but through the music and cinematography as well. It reminded me a bit of Chaplin in terms of its nostalgia. The locations, too, were stunning, ranging from the slums of Paris to the glittering theatres of New York, spanning the 1930’s to the 1960’s and perfectly recreating a sense of lost glamour from yesteryear – all long gloves and cigarettes from when smoking was still elegant rather than a mark of – dare I say it – silliness (hurriedly apologises to all my smoking friends – you know I love you guys really).

Marion Cotillard is amazing as Edith Paif. Whilst I was watching it I half thought that perhaps the older version of the singer was being played by another actress altogether. It wasn’t just the effect of make up but the way she moved and spoke – even her voice sounded different. Her transition from vulnerable, wide-eyed teenager to a strong, forceful woman is incredible. A performance utterly deserving of an Oscar if ever I saw one. The sad parts of the film are gut-wrenching but the occasional sweet, tender moment is all the better for the fact that it is understated and never becomes cloying.

I thought about this film for days after watching it and ordered the DVD the same night. I can tell it’s probably going to become a film I obsess over a bit – the same way I obsess over Amadeus. I can watch that film and enjoy it; be fascinated and intrigued by it; totally lose myself in the magic of the story; read up all about Mozart (or, in this case, Edith Paif) and his life (or hers) . . . and then feel thoroughly miserable for the next week. But it is totally worth it.

Really, it just goes to show that when it comes to music, books or film, my dear ‘ol Dad really is my Sam-I-Am, and I’m a fool for ever hesitating to trust his excellent judgement. La Vie en Rose is a masterpiece and I’m extremely glad he made me watch it.

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11 Responses to “La Vie En Rose”

  1. David Devereux Says:

    I remember the first subtitled film that really caught me: Akira Kurasawa’s The Seven Samurai. It was on Channel Four one evening in my late teens and I thought I’d give it to the first commercial break.

    Three and a half hours later, the credits rolled and I was hooked.

    Have a crack at Gerard Depardieu in Cyrano de Bergerac if the French bug has bitten you.

  2. David Devereux Says:

    Hang on, does that mean you don’t do subtitles? You’ve never seen a Fellini film? Good heavens!

  3. Alex Bell Says:

    Nope, I don’t really do subtitled films so I haven’t seen this Fellini thing of which you speak. But having watched La Vie En Rose and loved it I may have to change my attitude towards subtitled films now.

  4. Tom Lloyd Says:

    Does this mean that watch with poor dubbing or just ignore movies like Crouching Tiger or Life is Beautiful? Either way, I’m disappointed in you young lady!

  5. Alex Bell Says:

    Before La Vie I would always have gone with “poor dubbing”. Having watched that fantastic film I am now *open* to subtitled movies but I still ain’t rushing out to see ‘em. Not when I could be rewatching Weekend at Bernies instead (I’m not ashamed) . . .

  6. Kwok Ting Lee Says:

    Good lords. When I was a teenager approximately 75% of all the films I watched were subtitled. (Not, of course, any films in Mandarin because I speak it, and I rely on the subtitles in Cantonese films from Hong Kong because my Cantonese is rudimentary and consists largely of the words and phrases I need in order to order food in Hong Kong.) But French, German, Italian, Japanese, Persian and Spanish films all filled my weekends. I scorned anything that the masses watched with a teenager’s sense of elitism. (Yes, I was insufferable.)

    If you ever want a short list (or not so short list) of modern and not-so modern foreign language films that are beautiful and in some cases magical, do let me know.

    And yes, La Vie En Rose is magnificent.

  7. Simon Says:

    You must have watched Nikita. Fantastic film.

    For a really out there French film, The Hairdressers Husband. Totally bonkers.

    Pans Labyrinth, Chronos. I’ll stop now.

    Finished The Ninth Circle. Enjoyed it a lot. ta. New one in June?

  8. Alex Bell Says:

    Kwok Ting Lee – I did the same thing when I was a teenager, but I did it with books, not films. I was often seen walking round school or college with a Charles Dickens book (which I genuinely loved) or a Jane Austen book (which I couldn’t stand, but wanted to look above everyone else). Yeah, I was insufferable too.

    Simon – glad to hear you enjoyed Ninth Circle :-) There is a new one out in June (Jasmyn) and, indeed, a third one out in September (Lex Trent).

  9. Kwok Ting Lee Says:

    Ah, well, the film snobbery was accompanied by the book snobbery (Plato, Nietzsche, Marcus Aurelius, Moore, Nabokov, Austen, Tolstoy, Fitzgerald, Wilde, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Homer, Virgil, etc), I’m afraid, so I was probably so thoroughly insufferable that my survival into adulthood was a miracle that tends to prove the anthromorphic merciful god theory. That, and the fact I knew martial arts.

    A book in June and September? Wow. That’s awfully fast for those of us used to the pace of Dan Simmons and George R.R. Martin… :-)

  10. Michaela Deas Says:

    No subtitled movies? Oh my God, you have missed out on so much! I agree with Simon re. Pan’s Labyrinth and Cronos but add “Devil’s backbone”. Also, I highly recommend “The girl on the bridge” or pretty much anything that has Daniel Auteil in it. If you do German film, check out “The counterfeiters”, “The life of others”.. oh, I better stop.. I could go on forever!

  11. Alex Bell Says:

    Kwok Ting Lee – Yeah, the martial arts must have helped. I think the only reason I survived school was because they had this acceleration set thing that put all the brainy kids together. This was probably the only reason I managed to avoid being killed and eaten by the other students.

    And, yes, two books out this year. I had one published last year and two this year so, obviously, I plan to have three books out next year, four the year after that, and so on. ;-)

    Michaela – perhaps I will check some of those other films out. But I will still have to force myself.

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