What was Coco Chanel like before she became the name behind an empire? Was she always interested in fashion? Did she grow up wearing haute couture? Does she know how to sew or is she just the visionary behind the clothing empire? Well, all of these questions, plus many more, will be answered after watching this engaging movie. Coco, born Gabrielle, was abandoned at a young age by her father to an orphanage. From that rocky start, in adulthood, she found herself working as a cabaret dancer at a less-than-respectable bar. There, she meets a man who will change her life…taking her into his life and his home. But, even after her life switches from poverty to affluence, it is not an easy road. The major problem I had with this film is that it moves from her opening a modest but elegant millenary shop (Coco’s start was in making hats for herself and friends, one of whom was well-known stage actress) in Paris to models wearing her designs parading down the runaway. I know that the point of this film must have been her pre-success life, but how she went from hats to evening gowns still mystifies me. That aside, this is a wonderful film that really captures the early essence of this remarkable woman.

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From the writer and director of The Closet, this film is another French comedy success…in the grand tradition of some of the classic French farces (i.e. La Cage aux Folles). The main character is a nerdy guy who’s unsuccessful in the love, looks, and job departments (he’s a valet). Coincidentally, he gets photographed next to a supermodel. Because of a series of comic circumstances, he and the model must “pose” to be lovers and even live together so it appears their proximity in the photograph is legit. Both actors, the valet (Gad Elmaleh) and the model’s real but married lover (Daniel Auteuil), are just perfect in their roles…especially Auteuil, who is one of France’s most talented actors, in both comedies and dramas. It’s a short movie that you want to go on and on since it’s almost too good to end. A must for all comedy lovers…whether you like foreign films or not! And, while you’re at it, check out The Closet too. That one is also a must see!

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When I saw Monster or The Queen, I felt like I had seen movies where the actors (in these cases, Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren respectively) embodied the persona of a real-life person. In La Vie en Rose Marion Cotillard takes it one step forward…she embodies the persona and the SOUL of the Edith Piaf. When I was watching this, I just became immersed with Piaf and this movie. I was in a trance…mesmerized in the performance. I had seen Cotillard in A Good Year, a romantic comedy in which she played the love interest to Russell Crowe. She was a striking, tall, stunningly beautiful woman with close-to-perfect features and almost an ethereal quality. In La Vie en Rose, she is truly Piaf…hunched over, small, course, and beautiful only the eyes of a few select people. What is beautiful, mostly, about Piaf, is her voice. Watching Cotillard, though, makes this short, awkward woman a striking person without an overabundance of physical beauty. Without adding any physical attributes to her, Cotillard brings out the inner beauty of Piaf…in both the depth of the fabulous performance and with the sparkle always shining through Piaf’s eye whenever Cotillard is shown. The movie, itself, is a good deal too long and would be quite tedious if I were not memorized with the performance. I’m sure it could have benefited with some serious time in the editing room…as long as no scenes featuring Piaf were cut out. She’s way too good to leave on the cutting room floor.

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When a father tries to force early success on his musical prodigy child, he soon realizes what his child needs most is his love. On its own, the storyline provides meaningful and poignant scenes and makes a heartwarming film. Weave the use of music into the mix and the film becomes even more powerful and stunning. But, at the true heart of this film is the relationship between the old man and the child. This film proves that no matter how high of expectations we set for our children, we never stop loving them even if they don’t achieve all that is expected. A meaningful film for anyone who at one time was someone’s child—meaning a film for all.

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