La Vie En Rose Soundtrack, Christopher Gunning

Posted by AJ Harbison at 9:22 pm

Well, so much for posting more consistently….

A few weeks ago, my lovely fiancée and I rented the movie La Vie En Rose and watched it for the first time. It’s a French movie (originally titled La Môme in France), in French with English subtitles, about the “extraordinary life” of the French singer Édith Piaf. The actress who plays Piaf, Marion Cotillard, won a Best Actress Oscar for the role last year–only the second time a foreign film has ever garnered that award. So, between the critical accolades (a draw for me) and the fact that it was French (a draw for Eleanor), we decided we would check it out.

It was a very good movie–very long and very sad, but very good. Cotillard’s performance was heralded as “breathtaking” and “one of the greatest performances on film ever,” and it is certainly a superlative one, especially as Piaf near the end of her life.

Of course, since the movie was about Piaf, much of the score was comprised of her songs–sometimes with Cotillard singing but often the original Piaf recordings. The rest of the score was composed by Christopher Gunning, whose IMDB page reveals no other movies that I recognize–apparently he’s written a lot for TV. I found it interesting that in many of the movie’s moments where the score enters, when it didn’t involve a Piaf song, the composer employed a lone piano with no other instrumentation. Often the rest of the movie’s audio (dialogue, sound effects, etc.) would fade or disappear completely, leaving only a piano playing generally chordal passages in minor keys. It was an interesting touch, and a poignant one. As portrayed in the movie, Piaf had few friends and very few close ones; I wonder if Gunning’s choice of a single instrument was representative of her loneliness. In any case, the score did not make a great impression on me otherwise, but I enjoyed this particular concept and the rest of the movie was excellent.



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    ryan fleming on 12.23.2008

    I can definitely see how a solo piano could represent a lonely character, especially if the chord progression is minor in tonality. When play that type of music in my head I envision something very sad and lonely. Its as if the piano would cheer up and play major chords only if it had another instrument by its side. Anyways, I like the idea.

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    AJ Harbison on 12.23.2008

    Hi Fleming,
    Thanks for the mental image there–made me laugh!

    AJ Harbison

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    Erin on 12.24.2008

    Did you see the movie, Atonement? In my opinion, the soundtrack was the best part. Often, and especially in the beginning, sound effects from the movie were intertwined with the sounds of the score, including the brilliant use of matches, footsteps, and a typewriter. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it for its soundtrack. The rest of the movie was so/so.

    Thanks for doing the listening.

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