Nobody Else But You (or if you’d prefer the original French title, Poupoupidou), is a rare breed of film- skirting between lighthearted and somber, pop fun and legitimate art, existing as both a gleefully funny comic romp and a tense, captivating murder mystery. And even if it clearly owes a sizable debt to the Coen Bros’ Fargo (a plucky protagonist gets wrapped up in the investigation of a dangerous crime, set in a small town populated with oddly likable weirdos and endless expanses of pure white snow), Nobody Else But You still manages to carve itself a unique little niche into the “darkly funny neo-noir” territory that the Coens tend to dominate.
Now here’s the hard part- I saw Nobody Else But You at the 20th annual French Film Festival in Richmond last weekend, but unless you plan on buying the DVD off of the French Amazon.com (a DVD which probably won’t work in our American players to begin with), it seems you’re out of luck when it comes to actually seeing the film. The best I can do is this:
The trailer for Nobody Else But You on Youtube. It’s not much, but at least it’s something.
Now before I dig into that trailer (also, you know, the film itself), I’ve got to backtrack just a little bit and actually describe what the movie’s about.
In the snowy town of Mouthe in eastern France, Candice Lecoeur (Sophie Quinton) lives a life so overwhelmingly cute that it belongs in a children’s book. A stunningly beautiful woman and the spokesmodel for a popular cheese company, Candice lives in an abandoned cookie factory and always takes time to chat with her legions of adoring young fans.
Until her body’s discovered in a snowdrift.
Enter David Rousseau, a mystery novelist with a case of writer’s block. By sheer coincidence, David finds out about Candice’s untimely death and starts his own investigation, planning to use her story as the inspiration for his next book. It doesn’t take too long for David to get far too invested in the case, determined to discover the truth about Candice’s death even if it means putting his own life in jeopardy.
Alright, now back to the trailer. For those of you who sat through the whole thing, two big aspects of the film should be abundantly, overwhelmingly clear: it looks great, and it sounds great.
Allow me to go into slightly more detail. Nobody Else But You can be an absolutely gorgeous piece of film when it wants to be, but it really shines whenever Candice is onscreen. Just look at the film’s opening sequence (although realistically, you probably can’t), where Candice, wearing nothing but a shimmery see-thru robe, is shot in extreme close-ups and surrounded with nothing but blinding white light. With that pale skin and bleached blonde hair, she’s a perfect symbol of purity, despite any flaws she may have as a human being (although that certainly doesn’t stop the film’s male characters from idealizing her). So when David trudges around in the endless snows of Mouthe, the world around him is as pure and perfect as the deceased woman he’s trying to do right by. And by the film’s end, Candice and the town of Mouthe become one and the same (especially in the film’s closing moments, where we see Candice’s visage on a sign at the Mouthe city limits- she’ll forever be the defining aspect of the town).
And all this is gorgeously captured on film- Candice, all dressed up and ready to model, is shot with a fluid, dreamy camera, and whether she’s surrounded by overwhelming white nothingness or the manic, pulsating lights and colors of a dance club, she floats across the frame like she’s riding an air current.
But sadly, Candice is the exception to the rule- there’s no one else in the film who really pops off the screen to the extent that she does. And this leaves us with a film where a real live human being interacts with a bunch of movie characters. It doesn’t sink the film by any means (and in a weird way, you could even see it as reinforcing the idea of placing of Candice on a pedestal), but it’s a flaw that definitely becomes noticeable by the end of the film.
The supporting characters may not get a mountain of development, but the characterizations they have get snuck into the film in some ingenious ways. The best example, by far, would be Bruno, the resourceful cop who aids David in cracking the case. On the surface, Bruno’s an innocuous, fairly typical cop character, but slowly one’s perception of Bruno starts to shift. Bruno and David take a trip to the sauna. Bruno shows David how to shoot a bow and arrow, preferring to use a bowstring over a firearm. These normal, masculine activities are shot on an incredibly tight lens, cramming David and Bruno into the frame and eventually your eye starts to wander, noticing just how close these two are and how often Bruno touches David. Slowly, your subconscious starts to wonder: might Bruno be gay?
And the film’s response is surprisingly sly. For maybe a second, a scantily clad hunk peeks out from an errant magazine stuffed into Bruno’s bedside table. That’s it. The magazine isn’t particularly noticeable, and the camera does nothing to highlight this little clue. If you’re a viewer with a watchful eye for these kinds of things, then Bruno opens up as a character, and all of his actions have just a little more meaning to them now that you understand him just a bit more. And if you never spot the magazine, then it’s not a huge deal. Bruno doesn’t make or break the movie.
Cleverness is the name of the game here, not only in characterization but in how the film’s plot is structured and the payoff (or lack thereof) at the climax of the story. The truth about Candace’s death isn’t revealed through any kind of violent ordeal, and it doesn’t bring about any kind of climactic confrontation with the responsible party. The truth is only revelatory in that it provides closure for our protagonists (and those in the audience dying for an answer). An ending like this casts the whole film in a different light- the mystery instantly seems secondary, and the relationship between David and Candice moves front and center.
And there are multiple instances where the film is clearly laying the foundation for later events (explaining David’s super-sensitive hearing, or Bruno’s archery skill), and you just know they’re coming back in a big way, but then those elements are never seen again, leaving us with a film that’s the very definition of “anticlimactic.” It’s a stark, very simple ending that’s unique and decidedly un-American, which is surprising for a film that references American culture so often. Besides the obvious Marilyn Monroe connection (which starts out as a purely physical resemblance, but soon extends to the intricate details of Candice’s character and the overall story), David listens to American rock music and compares himself to James Ellroy. Throw in a few more references to Anne Baxter, the song “Kids in America,” and the obvious relation to Fargo and you’ve got a film that pays tribute to all aspects of American culture while rebelling against all the key aspects of the American crime thriller.
As far as thrillers go, Nobody Else But You is seriously fantastic. I implore you: if you find yourself with the opportunity to see this one, take that opportunity.
That’s about all I can really say.