Movies: 'La Vie en Rose'
The Life of World Famous French Chanteuse Edith Piaf

Olivier Dahan
Film Director
Friday, April 20, 2007 12:00 PM

"La Vie en Rose (The Life in Pink)," the signature song of French singer Edith Piaf (Dec. 19, 1915 - Oct. 11, 1963) becomes the title of director Olivier Dahan's film, which tells the story of the singer who grew up in poverty, became one of the world's most celebrated singers and died a tragic death in her 40s. Marion Cotillard stars as Piaf.

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Dahan was online Friday, April 20, at Noon ET to talk about his film and the life of the "Little Sparrow."

A transcript follows.


Arlington, Va.: Many Americans have never heard of Edith Piaf. What American would you compare to Mademoiselle Piaf to, as far as her life story goes? Marilyn Monroe or someone else?

Olivier Dahan: It's quite difficult but in a certain way maybe Billie Holliday. But I guess that the life of Billie Holliday was more difficult than the life of Edith Piaf. But they were born the same year. Maybe Judy Garland and her kind of life was almost the same.


Dayton, Ohio: Salud, Olivier. How widely will your film be distributed in the U.S?

Olivier Dahan: Salud back to you. The movie will be released June 8 in New York, L.A. and San Francisco and then other cities will follow. D.C. will be June 15.


Austin:"La M¿me" still remains a vital and integral figure in France, one that wraps beauty and tragedy together in such a compelling personage.

What was the sense amongst your colleagues and others in the industry -- was there reluctance to explore her life and music through a cinematic expression, or did people feel that it was finally time to do so?

On another note: J'ai adore "Les rivieres pourpres 2" et j'espere que vous et Jean Reno ferez un autre film, avec le caractere de Niemans o un nouveau conte.

Olivier Dahan: No, I will not do another Crimson River or another movie with Jean Reno. This one was fun to do, a good experience.

In France there were a lot of people telling my producer and me that it wasn't a good idea to make a movie about Edith Piaf because she was an old singer and no one in France now would want to go see a movie about her. There were people talking like this but they were wrong. Because the movie has been released in France and is a huge success.


Bethesda, Md.: Why did you decide to shift the time frame back and forth in the movie, rather than simply tell the story chronologically?

Olivier Dahan: Because I was not interested by the facts. I was more interested in the emotion. I'd just written the script like that because it was my intuition.


Bethesda, Md.: I am looking forward to seeing your film about France's greatest singer when it goes into general release. As a fan of hers since childhood and with knowledge of most of her songs, I cannot quibble with the choice of title. However, I would have thought Je ne regrette rien would have been just as appropriate. How did you come to make the film?

Olivier Dahan: The French title was La Mome which means The Kid but in English it was already taken so I thought that La Vie En was a good title because it's a love song, that's all. I didn't want a negative title (Je ne regrette rien: no regrets).


Washington, D.C.: This is one of few movies I've seen recently that does beg to be seen on the "big screen." Congratulations on a beautifully crafted film. After seeing 'La Vie,' everyone I see looks beautiful. I think because the movie demonstrates the beauty of life, even the tragic parts (physical and emotional). This is the theme of Piaf's life as portrayed in the movie. The style of cinematography heightened this by continually zooming in and out showing big picture, and individuals in contrast. This does give it an "old fashioned" feel. You seemed to disagree with this during last night's discussion. Why or why not? Can you discuss the aura of the film and the techniques used to produce that aura? P.S. I did not ask "that question" last night!

Olivier Dahan: I don't think it's old-fashioned. It's more like sometimes classic because I like to be in the classic way. Actually I don't know what is exactly old-fashioned in regards to cinematography but I like to go in the classic way in some sequence and to go to somthing more modern in other sequences.


Arlington, Va.: It seems to me that so many female singers from that time period had such horrible lives: Billie Holliday, Judy Garland, Maria Callas. It seems cliched to say that suffering produces great art but that seems to be the case. was there something about that particular era (budding feminist movement & then depression) that produced those woman?

Olivier Dahan: Certainly at that time it was harder for a woman than maybe today. Now I'm not sure that you have to suffer to be an artist, I'm not sure about it. To me, I just wanted to make a movie about an artist. It could be a man or a woman.


Washington, D.C.: Despite some wonderful reviews "La Mome" has received, what do you say to critics who accuse you of talking about Piaf's life only superficially and speculating about her somewhat chaotic personal life? Merci de votre reponse, Tanya

Olivier Dahan: First, everything in the movie is true. I'm not a biographer, I didn't want to make a biopic but a psychological portrait of an artist. I never read reviews anyway.


Washington, D.C.: Often wonder why "Je ne regrette rien" isn't a staple in every cabaret act.

Olivier Dahan: There is an English version titled "No Regrets." that's been sung by a a lot of artists, like Shirley Bassey for example.


Fairfax, Va.: Are you yourself a music fan?

Olivier Dahan: Of course yes. I'm not a fan of just Edith Piaf but a fan of music. To me music is more important than cinema.


Herndon, Va.: Do you know yet what your next project will be?

Olivier Dahan: I don't know, I'm just reading scripts. I have to find something, maybe in English, I don't know.


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