Sony // 1997 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Justice Mike Jackson (Retired) // December 21st, 1999
Sometimes you just have to be yourself.
Ma Vie En Rose is a quirky little foreign film that raises interesting issues regarding gender and intolerance. It may have not turned me into a French-film lovin' fool, but it made me think.
Ma Vie En Rose is a little French film about a boy, Ludovic, who is convinced he's a girl. Ludovic dresses in skirts and dresses and wears makeup. He dreams of marrying the boy next door. When he wakes up with stomach pains, he thinks he's having a period like his older sister. His parents don't know what to make of it -- is something wrong with the boy, or is he just going through the process a seven year old goes through to discover himself? His peers treat him roughly, teasing and tormenting him. The parents of the children at his private school sign a petition to have Ludovic kicked out. Hate messages are scrawled on their house. Eventually, his father is fired, and the family must move. In their new neighborhood, Ludovic meets a girl going through a similar gender identity crisis, and finally some balance is brought to his life.
While watching Ma Vie En Rose, the closest touchstone among my favorite movies I could find was Edward Scissorhands. Both films are fantasies about suburbia's distrust and hatred of that which does not fall within their narrow experience. The antagonists of both movies are naïve and cannot understand why they are not accepted. The films' visual style reflects the shiny happiness on the outside that hides the hate and intolerance inside. I grew up in a rather conservative, fundamentalist Christian atmosphere, where gays and lesbians were made out to be odd, evil minions of Satan. It wasn't until I got out into "the world" and actually met gays that I realized that they were people just like me. Why shouldn't they be able to follow whatever path for their lives they chose, just like I could? Somehow I imagined that a progressive European country such as France would be more tolerant than white-bread suburban America. Maybe people are afraid of the same things all over the world. Ma Vie En Rose isn't necessarily trying to advance an agenda, nor overtly is it a movie about homosexual issues. At heart, it's about someone who is convinced he's something that physiologically he's not. Maybe it's just a phase he's going through, but then maybe he'll grow up to be gay. The movie doesn't really address that. It's about what is going on in Ludovic's head right now.
It's difficult to judge a movie when you can't understand a word they're saying (the only French I understand is "bonjour"). It's hard to pay attention to what's going on while reading what they're saying. Visually, Ma Vie En Rose is stunning. It was filmed in bright, vibrant colors, mainly the titular pink. It has the look of a fantasy, of a fairy tale brought to life. The DVD brings it to life flawlessly, in perhaps one of the best transfers I have seen. It is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The video is sharp and clear, and the colors are nicely saturated and don't bleed a bit. The picture nearly jumps off the screen. The audio is presented only in its original French, in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround mix. It has a nice dynamic range, bringing out the dialogue, sound effects, and music with equal quality. The English subtitles don't necessarily translate everything that is said, but for the most part things are left out that you should be able to understand.
The DVD contains no extras. A dubbed English track would have been nice as well, but perhaps this wasn't a popular enough film to warrant that like Life Is Beautiful.
While I can't quite agree with Newsday's critic who hyperbolically called Ma Vie En Rose "This season's 'It's A Wonderful Life,'" I found it to be a thought-provoking and watchable foreign movie. Watch it for its beauty and for its touching treatment of a touchy issue.
The film is acquitted on all charges. Columbia is let off with a stern warning for releasing a bare-bones disc.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Official Site