There’s a scene in Two Days, One Night where Petula Clark’s rendition of the Jack Nitzsche/Sonny Bono classic “Needles and Pins” plays on the car radio. The husband (played by Fabrizio Rongione) turns off the song, fearing it’s too depressing for the moment; the wife (Marion Cotillard) insists the music continue. It’s a sharp, understated scene that hints at how both characters are handling the wife’s mental illness. But as the moment played out, I didn’t quite get it. Too depressing? “Needles and Pins”? Really?
Sure, the lyrics aren’t exactly peppy, with the hero spying a former flame, renewed heartbreak ensuing. But the jangly Mersey pop melody, one of the decade’s finest, keeps everything bouncy and light. As the kids say, it’s got a great beat, you can dance to it.
Ah, but Petula Clark wasn’t singing “Needles and Pins.” She was singing “La nuit n’en finit plus.” Same melody, all-new lyrics (by Jacques Plante). The title translates to “The Night Won’t Seem to End,” and boy oh boy, does it get dark:
To think that there are so many beings on the earth
Who like me tonight are alone
It’s sad to the point of death
What a senseless world
I would like to sleep and not think anymore
And I am here
Crying without knowing why
Turning like a soul in pain
Yes, alone with myself
Desiring someone that I love
Not this night, this night
That will obviously never end
Holy cats, that’s some serious black-turtleneck ennui.
The new lyrics have a smoky insomniac feel that the melody – slowed in tempo, but not to the point of gimmickry – can’t hide. What was once a catchy ode to lost love is now a tearful contemplation on the long, lonely hours. It’s an improvement on an already great work, and it’s bitter as hell.
I’d probably turn off that car radio, too.
(English translation via the aptly named Lyrics Translate.)
copyright 2015 David Cornelius all rights reserved