Big Screen Berkeley: Nobody Else But You

Seasoned cinemagoers will find echoes of late period Claude Chabrol or Claude Lelouch in “Nobody Else But You”

Don’t be fooled by the opening credits or poster art for Nobody Else But You (opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, July 6th): despite appearances, it’s neither an erotic thriller nor a sexy fabric softener commercial. Despite these misleading first impressions, it’s actually a murder mystery in which Marilyn Monroe’s infamous fling with John F. Kennedy – and the ensuing tragedy — is recreated in a Gallic setting.

Released in France as Poupoupidou (conjuring visions of a biopic about former French President Georges Pompidou), the story begins as crime novelist and James Ellroy wannabe David Rousseau (Jean-Paul Rouve) travels to Mouthe, the coldest town in France (its nickname is Little Siberia) to claim his inheritance. Unfortunately, David’s legacy turns out to be no more than a rather moth-eaten family heirloom, but he stumbles into a mystery that provides him inspiration for his next book.

Sitting on the Franco-Swiss border 200 miles east of Paris, Mouthe is also home to Candice Lecoeur (Who Killed Bambi?’s Sophie Quinton), a celebrity spokes-model who peddles cheese and reads the television weather forecast wearing an array of bizarre and sometimes revealing costumes. When her body is discovered buried deep in snow in an area considered ‘no man’s land’, David senses that there may be more to her death – immediately ruled a suicide by the local gendarmerie – than meets the eye.

Despite the active discouragement of Police Chief Colbert (Olivier Rabourdin), he pursues a series of leads that take him from the bleak border to the mortuary freezer where Candice’s body awaits burial. Disregarding barriers thrown in his way – including unfortunate incidents involving faulty electrical wiring and malfunctioning automobile brakes – David uncovers a curious connection between Candice and Franche-Comté regional President Jean François Burdeau (Ken Samuels).

Written and directed by Gerald Hustache-Mathieu, Nobody Else But You uses a plot device first cooked up by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder 60 years ago for Sunset Boulevard, and since applied to greater or lesser effect in films ranging from American Beauty to Tupac Resurrection: it’s narrated by a corpse. The conceit works reasonably well this time, with Candice speaking through the pages of her diary, discovered by David sitting undisturbed in a bureau drawer.

Less effective are other elements of Hustache-Mathieu’s story. There’s a fixation on the number 5 which is left to wither and die unexplained on the vine, and the grafting of Monroe-JFK mythology onto his screenplay ultimately seems unnecessary and too clever by half. On the plus side of the ledger, the film’s wintery locations provide beauty and menace in equal measure and there’s some excellent set design, with David’s hotel strangely reminiscent of the inn where John Turturro and John Goodman stayed in Barton Fink.

Seasoned cinemagoers will find echoes of late period Claude Chabrol or Claude Lelouch in Nobody Else But You, as well as a cheeky acknowledgment of the film’s debt to the early 20th-century fiction of Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre. And keep an eye on newcomer Clara Ponsot, here cast as hotel receptionist Betty. If anyone ever makes a film about the late Spanish actress Soledad Miranda, they should cast Ponsot in the lead role – she’s a dead ringer.

Berkeleyside’s film writer John Seal writes a weekly movie recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as well as a column in The Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly.  

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