Movies / Music / Performing Arts

French Needles


Photo by Sarah Louise Klose

The Oscars are over, but the movie songs live on. “Everything Is Awesome,” the silly tune from The Lego Movie. “Glory,” movingly performed by Common and John Legend. (I saw Selma this weekend, and felt the song’s power once again.)


Photo of David Oyelowo in Selma

“La Nuit N’en Finit Plus” is also looping through my brain. It is a French song from Two Days, One Night, a film about a Belgian woman fighting to keep her job. Marion Cotillard’s performance as the worker is deeply layered and quietly powerful, as is David Oyelowo’s as Martin Luther King in Selma.  She was nominated for Best Actress for Two Days, One Night, and I don’t understand why he wasn’t nominated for Best Actor for Selma.


Photo of Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night

In Two Days, One Night, Cotillard visits her colleagues one by one, and asks them to vote to allow her to keep her job at the solar-panel factory. While her husband drives her from house to house, the song “La Nuit N’en Finit Plus” plays on the car radio.

The song was originally written in English, and called “Needles and Pins.” Jackie DeShannon’s recording made the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1963. A version by The Searchers reached number one in the U.K. in 1964. Other versions of “Needles and Pins” include a 1978 cover by The Ramones and 1985 live version by Tom Petty and Steve Nicks.


Photo of Petula Clark from Forbes

But in the film Two Days, One Night, we hear the French version of the classic song. Petula Clark sings it, and her voice is clear, pure, elegant. Clark released “La Nuit N’en Finit Plus” in France, in 1963. And here it is, over 50 years later, in a movie. I think it fits the film perfectly.

You may not know that Sonny Bono and Jack Nitsche wrote “Needles and Pins.” I didn’t know it until I looked up the song history today. I also learned Parisian songwriter Jacques Plante translated the song into French. And that is how Petula Clark — who had a recording career in France at the time — ended up singing “La Nuit N’en Finit Plus” (literally, “the night never ends”).

Songwriter Jacques Plante also happened to write the lyrics for “Chariot.” That tune was a 1962 smash hit for Petula Clark in France. The following year, it was translated into English as “I Will Follow Him,” and was a number one hit for Peggy March in the U.S.

I’ve become very fond of “La Nuit N’en Finit Plus.” I think the French cover, sung by Petula Clark, is the loveliest of all versions of “Needles and Pins.” Take a listen and see what you think.