Synopsis by Nathan Southern
Music aficionados in the U.S. might remember Jeannine Deckers by her stage name, The Singing Nun -- performer of the one-hit-wonder "Dominique," which topped the U.S. pop charts for ten weeks in 1963, displaced the Kingsmen's seminal "Louie, Louie," and inspired the Debbie Reynolds musical The Singing Nun as a fictionalized version of Deckers' life. Behind the gloss, however, Deckers led one of the most unusual lives of any late 20th century European celebrity. With Soeur Sourire, director Stijn Coninx tells the performer's strange story. The tale opens in 1959, when young Belgian girl Jeannine (Cecile de France) flees her parents' strictly conservative home, and moves into a Dominican convent. While there, she chafes beneath the restrictions thrust onto her -- such as the inability to sing and play her guitar -- but begins quietly authoring songs. She impulsively books time in the Phillips studio to record one of the tunes, planning to donate to charity the monies earned from the song, but Phillips executives overhear it and grow so enthusiastic that they offer Deckers a recording contract under the stage name "Soeur Sourire" (or "Sister Smile,") and turn her into an international sensation. Then, at the pinnacle of her success, not long after The Ed Sullivan Show travels to Belgium to film her, she struggles with an attempted reconciliation between her religious faith and beckoning pop stardom. Deckers ultimately shocks everyone by shucking Catholicism, pursuing a full-time career as a recording star, recording radically left-wing protest songs, and taking up with a lesbian partner, Annie (Sandrine Blancke). The two fall deeply in love and open a school together for autistic children, but Jeannine's world falls apart when the Belgian government comes calling and informs her that she owes a fortune in back taxes for "Dominique" profits that she originally donated to charity. This actually marked the second of two major features within a ten-year period to cover Deckers' life -- the first, 2001's Suor Sorriso, utilized an experimental, non-linear approach and received mostly scathing reviews.
convent, drug-addiction, lesbianism, nun, singer