Marie Laforêt (born Maïténa Marie Brigitte Doumenach, on 5 October 1939 in Soulac-sur-Mer, Gironde) is a French singer and actress. Her first name Maïténa, which is of Basque origin, means "beloved", and is sometimes used by the inhabitants of Languedoc, especially of Pyrénées. Doumenach, her last name, is Catalan in origin – Domènec in Catalan. Her maternal grandfather built "cabanons" in the resort of Soulac-sur-mer, in Gironde in 1886. During the Second World War, he was captured and detained as a prisoner of war in Germany until the liberation in May 1945. Marie, her sister Alexandra and their mother knew a period of many hardships. At the age of three, Marie suffered a sexual trauma which affected her for longtime. After the war the family moved to Valenciennes where the father led a factory for railways utensils, and later they settled in Paris. After becoming more religious and having considered becoming a nun, Marie continued her secondary studies at the Lycee La Fontaine in Paris. There she began to show interest for the dramatic arts and her first experiences in this domain proved to be therapeutically useful for her through their cathartic effect.
Her career began accidentally in 1959 when she replaced her sister at the last minute in a French radio talent contest Naissance d'une Étoile and won. Director Louis Malle then cast the young starlet in the film he was shooting at the time, “Liberté”, a project he finally abandoned, making Laforêt's first appearance on screen opposite actor Alain Delon in René Clément's 1960 drama “Plein Soleil”. After this film she became very popular and interpreted many roles in the 1960s. She married director Jean-Gabriel Albicocco, who cast her in some of his own works, including “La Fille aux Yeux d'Or”, based on the Balzac story, which would become her nickname. In her second film, “Saint-Tropez Blues”, accompanied by a young Jacques Higelin at the guitar, she sang the title song and immediately started releasing singles, her first hit being 1963's “Les Vendanges de l'Amour”. Her songs offered a more mature, poetic, tender alternative to the light, teenage yé-yé tunes charting in France at the time. Her melodies borrowed more from exotic folk music, especially South American and Eastern European, than from contemporary American and British pop acts. Laforêt worked with many important French composers, musicians and lyricists, such as André Popp and Pierre Cour, who provided her with a panoply of colorful, sophisticated orchestral arrangements, featuring dozens of musical instruments and creating a variety of sounds, sometimes almost Medieval, Renaissance or Baroque, other times quite modern and innovative.
Laforêt has been fond of folk music ever since she began recording in the early 1960s. She helped popularize the Bob Dylan song "Blowin' in the Wind" in France with her 1963 interpretation. On the B-side of the same EP she sings the classic American folk ballad "House of the Rising Sun". Other folk recordings include: "Viens Sur la Montagne", a 1964 French adaptation of the African-American spiritual "Go Tell It on the Mountain", recorded by American folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary the previous year, "Coule Doux" ("Hush-a-Bye"), another Peter, Paul and Mary song, 1966's "Sur les Chemins des Andes", a French version of the traditional Peruvian song "El Cóndor Pasa", and "La Voix du Silence", a 1966 cover of American duo Simon and Garfunkel's first hit, "The Sound of Silence". She also recorded some rock songs in the 1960s, her most famous being "Marie-Douceur, Marie-Colère", a 1966 cover of the Rolling Stones hit "Paint It Black".
Another popular recording was 1965's girl group-style "A Demain, My Darling", known by English-speakers as "The Sha La La Song" written by Marianne Faithfull on her debut eponymous album. Some of her most memorable pop songs are those written or arranged by French composer André Popp, such as "Entre Toi et Moi", "L'Amour en Fleurs", "Les Noces de Campagne", "Mon Amour, Mon Ami", and "Manchester et Liverpool". The melody of the latter song gained fame in the former Soviet Union as the background music to the Vremya television news programme's weather forecast in the 1970s. The quiet, bittersweet and minimally arranged ballad "Je Voudrais Tant que tu Comprennes" (1966), composed by Francis Lai, is a Marie Laforêt favorite. Homage was paid to the song in the 1980s when French pop superstar Mylène Farmer added it to her own concert repertoire.
At the end of the 1960s, Marie had become a rather distinctive figure in the French pop scene. Her music stood out, perhaps too much for her new label CBS Records, which expected of her more upbeat, simpler songs. She was interested in making more personal records, but finally gave in. Although her most financially successful singles ("Viens, Viens", a cover of the German hit ″Rain Rain Rain″, and "Il a neigé sur Yesterday", a ballad about the break-up of the Beatles) were released in the 1970s, Marie progressively lost interest in her singing career, moving to Geneva, Switzerland in 1978, where she opened an art gallery and abandoned music. In the 1980s, Marie concentrated on her acting career, appearing in a few French and Italian films. Some music singles were eventually released, but were not popular. She made a comeback, however, in 1993 with her final album, for which she wrote the lyrics. In the 1990s, she again continued to work as an actress, both on screen and on stage. She has performed in a number of plays in Paris over the years, acclaimed by audiences and critics alike. In September 2005, she sang once again, going on tour in France for the first time since 1972. Every concert was sold out. Laforêt still currently resides in Geneva and has obtained Swiss citizenship.