Edith Piaf: Le Concert Ideal/The Documentary (4 stars)

Edith Piaf: Le Concert Ideal/The Documentary

(E) 110min

(Acorn DVD retail)


The life of legendary chanteuse Edith Piaf was the stuff of melodrama, which, along with her incredible talents, accounts for her enduring appeal and status as a kind of deity in her native France. The documentary half of this two-DVD box set cracks through that life in a bare hour, whizzing through La Môme’s upbringing in her grandmother’s brothel and on the streets of Paris to her burgeoning fame in the 1930s and 40s and eventual breakthrough to global superstardom.

The story is interspersed with interviews with her collaborators and archive footage, including, fascinatingly, Piaf’s despondent reaction to the murder of her friend, nightclub owner Louis Leplée in 1936.

While Marianne Lamour’s documentary was clearly made for a French audience, and assumes a lot of prior knowledge about its subject, there’s a lovely intimate tone to the voiceover, which echoes the confessional feel of the chanson and draws you into Piaf’s story. Even better is the accompanying DVD of concert clips recorded at the height of the singer’s fame in the 1950s, which exhibit Piaf’s emotional blood-letting at its best and includes such signature tunes as ‘La Vie En Rose’, ‘Milord’ and ‘Hymne à L’amour’.

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