La Vie en Rose (French title: La môme), 2007
Starring Marion Cotillard and Gérard Depardieu.
Synopsis (from NetFlix):
In this biopic, director Olivier Dahan creates a loving portrait of legendary Parisian singer Edith Piaf (played by Marion Cotillard in an Oscar-winning performance), whose passion for music saw her through a life filled with tragedy. The film follows the chanteuse from her forlorn childhood in a brothel to her big break at Louis Leplée’s (Gérard Depardieu) nightclub and her premature death at age 47. Sylvie Testud and Pascal Greggory co-star.
I love learning, and through this film I felt that I learned a lot. I had absolutely no idea what this movie was about, even after watching Marion Cotillard accept an Oscar for her performance in it, but decided to check it out. I am glad I did because it is important to experience and learn about people who have strongly influenced culture beyond one’s own nation.
It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens. ~
Edith Piaf, a famous French singer, and her life filled with tragedy and beauty. She went through more hardships in the first decade of her life than I probably have yet. Edith was born to a cabaret singing mother, and a father who was serving in the army during World War I. Her mother was an alcoholic who would often leave her alone, or on the street when she performed.
When he father returned from the war he took Edith away from her mother, and deposited her with her grandmother who was the matron of a brothel. Edith then lived in the brothel, when she got an infection which left her blind for most of her childhood. The women of the brothel saved money to take Edith on pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Theresa where they prayed for healing for Edith so that she could regain her sight, which she eventually did, and this incident left her with a life long faith in St. Theresa whom she would pray to when times continued to get rough.
O thou maid-servant of the Blessed Perfection! Be thou not sad, neither be thou unhappy, although the divine tests are violent, yet are they conducive to the life of the soul and the heart. The more often the pure gold is thrown into the furnace of test, the greater will become its purity and brilliancy and it will acquire a new splendor and brightness. I hope that thou art thyself in such a position.
Consider thou the lives of the former sanctified souls; what tests have they not withstood and what persecutions have they not beheld; while they were surrounded with calamities they increased their firmness and while they were overwhelmed with tests they manifested more zeal and courage. Be thou also like unto them. ~
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning? ~Psalms 22:1
However it was through this event that she was able to discover her gift. When on the street as her Dad performed, one day the crowd wanted the girl in the act. Not knowing what to do she sang the French national anthem. Her voice was strong and endearing. The crowd applauded vigorously and tossed coins her way. She soon learned to sing for her supper.
Music is God’s gift to man, the only art of Heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to Heaven. ~ Walter Savage Landor
It took her 10 more years of singing on the street and in cabarets, getting mixed up with pimps and ruffians, before he luck turned (for a little while at least). She was discovered by a night club owner, Louis Leplée, who was able to give her a steady paycheck and audience, and save her from a life on the street. But, like every good thing in Edith’s life it was soon taken away. Louis Leplée was murdered, most likely from the mafia, and connections Edith had made on the street. This was a real tragedy for her as Leplée had been her savior of sorts, and unintentionally she had gotten him killed.
O SON OF MAN! Should prosperity befall thee, rejoice not, and should abasement come upon thee, grieve not, for both shall pass away and be no more.
This would not be the last time she grieved for an untimely death. Later, once she became even more professionally successful through connections Louis had made for her, her lover died in a plane crash. Already used to self-medicating through the use of alcohol, this event through her into a life long alcoholism which contributed to a car crash she was in that left her arthritic and in pain, contributing to cycle of addiction. We find out later that this love of her life, Marcel, shared a name with the only child Edith bore, a daughter named Marcelle, who died at the age of two from Meningitis, back when Edith was still living on the street.
Love consists not in feeling great things but in having great detachment and in suffering for the Beloved. The soul that is attached to anything, however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of Divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for until the cord be broken, the bird cannot fly.
~ St. John of the Cross
It was music that was able to get her through the tough times. Edith loved to bring joy to the faces of the people in the audience. Her music was also a catharsis as she commissioned ballads that dealt with the suffering she had faced, as well as those to uplift. Even when she was dying from liver failure, she bolstered up the strength to sing one last time at the Olympia a song which summed up her life, Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, translated as No Regrets:
No, nothing at all, I regret nothing at all
Not the good, nor the bad. It is all the same.
No, nothing at all, I have no regrets about anything.
It is paid, wiped away, forgotten.
I am not concerned with the past, with my memories.
I set fire to my pains and pleasures,
I don’t need them anymore.
I have wiped away my loves, and my troubles.
Swept them all away.
I am starting again from zero.
No, nothing at all, I have no regrets
Because from today, my life, my happiness, everything,
Starts with you!
Edith may not have always made the best choices. She was human, and she dealt with a lot of suffering, in mostly two ways- the healthy: music, and the unhealthy: alcohol. Her alcoholism and addiction to pain medication, was both tragic and yet understandable considering the repeated loss in her life of every person she loved, and both the physical and emotional pain she had to bear. Her love for music is what kept her alive and kept her from thoughts of suicide, and without music she did not want to live. She would take shots of painkillers to have the strength to go on stage after the car accident that left her crippled. The doctors were conflicted knowing that her performing was killing her, but also knowing that it was keeping her spirit alive and giving her the will to go on. I think there is a lot to learn from here and a lot to think about when we live our own lives, as well as when we see others making choices that perhaps we do not fully understand. We cannot know fully the suffering others go through, but in Edith’s case, she was able to channel her suffering into her art and bring beauty into the world through her music.