You might think any telling of Janine Deckers aka Soeur Sourire's saga -- the Belgian "Singing Nun" who had a 1960s pop-chart hit, then ended up a drug-addicted suicide -- would possess lurid fascination. But Roger Deutsch's Italo debut feature, "Sister Smile," is both oblique and heavy-handed. Commercial prospects are nil.

You might think any telling of Janine Deckers aka Soeur Sourire’s saga — she was the Belgian “Singing Nun” who had a fluke 1960s pop-chart hit, then ended up a 1985 drug-addicted suicide — would possess lurid fascination, at the very least. But expat Yank Roger Deutsch’s Italo debut feature, the excruciating “Sister Smile,” is both oblique and heavy-handed. Vaguely experimental feature’s directorial/script choices often seem determined to drive viewers mad with boredom or annoyance. Barring divine intervention, commercial prospects are nil.

Making no attempt to convey period, pic starts with Janine(Ginevra Colonna) entering the Dominican nunnery as an already morose and troubled person. Her fame is conveyed through people skipping about to her devotional pop tune “Dominique”; then she’s abruptly left the order and has landed at a drug rehab facility run by Clara (Simona Caparrini), with whom she commences a tortured on-and-off love affair. There’s no way to tell what’s factual and what’s imagined a pic that sometimes appears to be a poor stab at the loose, avant-garde style of Derek Jarman’s bios. Pic virtually repels viewer empathy or involvement, and design contribs are suspended betwixt arty and amateurish.

Sister Smile

Italy

Production

A Malika and Neofilm production. Produced by Kass Thomas. Executive producer, Wieland Schulzkeil. Directed by Roger Deutsch. Screenplay, Deutsch, Frances Caterrenato.

Crew

Camera (color), Giulio Pietromarchi; editor, Andrea Pica; music, Andreas Salvatori; production designers, Antonella Conte, Luigi Coglio. Reviewed at San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, June 19, 2002. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Ginevra Colonna, Antonio Salines, Simona Caparrini, Francesca Bianco, Stefania Bonafede, Ana Valeriadini, Fabrizio Bordignon, Vanessa Compagnucci.
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