Soeur Sourire is a moving story based on the life of a fascinating historic figure, Jeannine, a young Belgian girl who joined the convent and became a star in 1961 when she composed and sang the hit Dominique, nique, nique... The tragedy experienced by this young woman, who adopted the stage name Soeur Sourire, has everything to do with love. Jeannine Deckers desperately tries to give others the love she never received from her hard-hearted mother. She becomes attached to Annie, but when the latter tries to get closer, she runs. She dreams of moving away to far places, to Africa. When the situation at home becomes unbearable, she feels that joining a convent is the only way out. Life in the convent is hard for the young, passionate woman, but also gives her moments of joy she had never had before. She composes Dominique and is used by the church in an attempt to rejuvenate its waning image. The song becomes a hit all over the world. Written by
"Soeur Sourire" aka "the singing nun" was a one hit wonder but she achieved the incredible feat of taking the one and only French language song to number one on the billboard charts (the whole month of December 1963);the album did even better than the single,with a total of six weeks at the top (dislodged by "meet the Beatles");there was even a movie feat Debbie Reynolds ,but no follow up to the golden start with "Dominique" .
Soeur Sourire ,after her short moment of glory , was despised, shunned, bullied, ridiculed and persecuted or at least treated with suspicion .A -very mediocre - Neo Nouvelle Vague flick called "Les Idoles featured a caricature of the singer;we could follow the fall of the ex-nun in the tabloids ,the only 'refuge" for the has-beens in Europa.
Soeur Sourire,as depicted in the movie,was actually a woman ahead of her time ;influenced by Vatican II and ...Elvis Presley and rock and roll (we see her performing "Be Bop A Lula" in her convent),she was not prepared for the austere reactionary life among the nuns of the early sixties.Abetted by a young priest,she thought that pop music was a brand new way to get the Christian message across .She did not realize that she was adored as a "singing nun";even without the convent's disapproval ,she would never make it as a laywoman;and the fact that she left the holy orders to live with another woman did not help ,in th sixties when homosexuality -she only reportedly accepted her sexuality at the end of her life-was a taboo subject.(She became a nun just because she was ashamed of feeling like kissing another girl).The first sequence is revealing: a tomboy playing football;her attempts at "femininization" ,notably in Canada ,(making up,trying to have an affair with her manager) are doomed to failure.Her latter songs had nothing to do with the candid sanctimonious "Dominique" and dealt with modern subjects such as the pill,woman's lib,macho men,and the Church itself.
Cecile De France gives an outstanding performance as this unfortunate Belgian woman whose fall was hard.
Anachronisms : in the records shop ,circa 1963-64, you can see a France Gall sleeve which is actually from 1966;a man uses the verb "Niquer" (F....) whereas this word did not become "trendy" before the eighties.
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