Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Channeling Marilyn: Nobody Else But You

Generally speaking, it is a bad idea to emulate self-destructive movie stars.  However, the sexpot of Mouthe, the coldest town in France, does not have a lot of role models to follow.  Unfortunately, she meets the same fate as her idol Marilyn Monroe in Gérald Hustache-Mathieu’s slyly inventive Nobody Else But You (a.k.a. Poupoupidou, trailer here), which is now screening in New York.

David Rousseau is a series mystery author with a severe case of grinder-outer’s block. In Mouthe on a time-wasting errand (the sort of excuse editors refer to as “waxing the cat”), Rousseau is intrigued by a tragic local death.  The body of weathergirl and aspiring actress Candice Lecoeur was found in the no man’s land between the French and Swiss borders.  As a result, her death will not be properly investigated, unless he does it himself.

As he reconstructs Lecoeur’s life, largely by reading her diaries, Rousseau begins to fall for the woman who honestly believed she was the reincarnation of Norma Jean.  Likewise, Lecoeur develops affectionate feelings for the hack writer turned sleuth.  Yes, she serves as the real time spectral narrator of the film, just one of the many potential pitfalls Hustache-Mathieu nimbly skirts.

NEBY obviously suggests comparisons with Otto Preminger’s Laura, but Lecoeur really is dead.  Even so, it really is a love story between Rousseau and Lecoeur, distinguished by if-only regrets rather than romantic courtship.  Yet somehow Hustache-Mathieu manages to keep the tone relatively light and buoyant, which is a neat trick indeed.  He also fully develops the Marilyn Monroe connection in a spirit similar to Kenneth Branagh’s Dead Again and clearly demarcates each of the many flashback sequences.

Looking like Michael Fassbender’s dissolute older brother, Jean-Paul Rouve is scruffily charismatic as Rousseau, but he has an undeniably intelligent screen presence.  Appropriately not exactly a drop-dead beauty, Sophie Quinton still exudes unbridled sex appeal as Lecoeur, while conveying all her inner insecurities.  Rarely together on-screen, they still develop their not-relationship quite convincingly.

A great noir thriller with a fair sprinkling of laughs and a hint of paranormal romance, NEBY is a wholly original and completely satisfying film.  Unusually cleverly written yet totally engaging and accessible, it is highly recommended for general (if somewhat adult) audiences.  It is now playing in New York at the Cinema Village and opens in Los Angeles at the Landmark Nuart on June 8th.