Interview with director of ‘La Vie En Rose’

Natalie Smith

As a director, are there many French directors who have inspired you?There are not so many French directors who have influenced me, but I am familiar with their work. I was from the South of France, so many of the films [I saw] were American. The lyrics of Bruce Springsteen affect me more than French directors. Is music a source of inspiration for you?Yes. Music moves me more than movies do.Why did you choose this title for your film?Well, in France, it was “La Mome,” but that just means “the kid,” and in America, I think it is already taken. “La Vie En Rose,” maybe because there were a lot of people here who know the songs.How do you feel about different audiences, American versus French for example?No difference for me between any audience, because I don’t know French audience or American audience. There is maybe today more than five million people who will see it, and I don’t know much about them, so sure, I don’t do anything different for them.Is there a particular genre of film you enjoy more than others?As a viewer, I don’t have any type of preference. As a director, I don’t care about the genre; I’m just thinking about the characters and the story. What did you want to communicate about Edith Piaf’s story?I just wanted to explore an artist; could or should they mix life and the heart? Edith Piaf is a good example because she lived in extremes, and at the end I could explore what is left for her and what is left for everyone. You did a great job of showing how unremarkable Piaf looked as a woman but how her voice transfigured her into something beautiful. Was this transformation a difficult task for you and Cotillard to accomplish?During the four months of filming, Marion really became Piaf. It was very interesting to see. When Edith was on stage singing, she was beautiful; she was more than pretty on stage but ugly to look at if you saw her on the street. The perspective about her face and gesture really changed with the singing and feeling she gave to people. I noticed a lot of emphasis on her eyes in the film.I wanted to make the emotion visible on screen, and I didn’t want everything to stay inside the actors. I wanted to expose everything in a pictorial way.There is one scene that occurs between Edith and a reporter on a beach in California that you said was fictional, while everything else in the film really happened. Why did you include it?The interview was real. Ninety-nine percent of the film was true, except for the last sequence on the beach. This I just imagined. Maybe at this point I needed something outside the balconies of the theatre because so much of it was dark. It was fresh. Was there a sequence that you enjoyed more than the rest?When Piaf learns Marcel is dead. For me, this was the apex. I wanted to show her happy in the morning and sad at night and somehow also on stage. We rehearsed this sequence the most.Something I find utterly remarkable is that this script is the original draft from beginning to end.Yes, because I’m lazy. … I always had difficulty as a child learning to read and write. Neither was good because I have a very short term of concentration. So how is it when you direct?I don’t use my brain so much when I’m writing or directing – just intuition. I can invent anything, so my work was to put things together the way I wanted. No storyboard, no script when shooting. I don’t like doing rehearsals. Maybe three to four shoots for each scene.Where did you shoot?We’ve been shooting the studio part in the Czech Republic up in Prague, because it is cheap. And we shoot in Paris too; it was quite complicated. Do you enjoy working with your cast and crew and the “hundred people” around you?For most of the characters in the movie, some were friends and some I didn’t know, but I tried to pay the same attention to all of them. I always talk about the crew, actors and actresses together; I do not separate them. It’s all the same for me; I don’t make any difference. I am surrounded by so many great people. Sometimes directors aren’t completely happy with their end product. Are you happy, or is there anything you would change?Nothing. Maybe in a few years. The producers really let me do what I wanted.What is your favorite project that you’ve completed?Maybe I like this one. But I never watch my movies once they are finished. I was in bed once at a hotel and I saw one on television, but I only watched five minutes. Why not?Because once it’s finished, I can’t say it doesn’t interest me anymore, but for this one I know it by heart. So it becomes boring. You mentioned before that you are also a painter; how does this affect you as a director?I really make a separation between movies and painting. When I look at a movie compared to a painting, it’s not the same at all, and when I’m directing, I’m not the same person. But painting for me is something I do by myself, and when I film, there are 100 people around me. The point is the same: just to make the viewer feel something. Just to communicate. What does the future hold for you?More films.