Nobody Else But You is the international title of the French detective film Poupoupidou.
The film’s central character, David Rousseau, is an author of popular, slightly pulpy crime novels. Normally he is quite prolific, it seems, but lately he has been suffering from writer’s block. Hoping to inherit a considerable estate from a recently deceased relative, he has undertaken a long car journey from Paris to the village of Mouthe near the Swiss border. Quite a long journey, given that it is winter and that Mouthe is famous for being “the coldest village in France”.
The inheritance does not work out as anticipated. But when Rousseau happens to drive past a crime scene, he might just have found some inspiration for a new novel. If only he could dig up some additional information. And if only the local authorities weren’t completely unwilling to actually do anything about the case. Soon, our writer turns detective and is about to make some enemies.
More than being a detective story, this French film is a very nice character study, a study of the victim: a local celebrity who got trapped between her public persona and her old self. This is signified by a number of things, most importantly the adoption of her stage name and a change in hair colour. This identity problem is intensified and multiplied as she gets obsessed by Marilyn Monroe, discovering more and more parallels between their lives. It’s an obsession that is also a self-fulfilling prophecy as it becomes increasingly unclear to what degree her decisions are influenced by her obsession.
The character study develops through Rousseau’s eyes as he uncovers the victim’s life. Even though he gets a lot of information from her diaries, it is his interpretation of the diaries that we hear or see on screen. That way, his perspective is to a certain extent part of the “male gaze” that the victim was subjected to her whole life (though by her own choice). Added to this theme are tiny tokens of sexism that are sprinkled throughout the film. This is broken up by other weird patterns as well as by gratuitous male full frontal nudity which is played for absurdity more than anything else.
Director Gérald Hustache-Mathieu also wrote the screenplay, based on a novel by Adrian Finkelstein. Apart from a very good script, the film also has a great cast, including the two leads Jean-Paul Rouve and Sophie Quinton, and supporting players like Guillaume Gouix and Eric Ruf.
The village of Mouthe – which is a real-life place and really is the coldest village in France – is more or less a character in its own right in the film, and is important in creating the film’s atmosphere. Mouthe, we learn from the DVD’s “making of” bonus feature, only knows two seasons: the last winter and the coming winter.
In the press, the film has been linked with Twin Peaks as well as the Coen brothers. But neither comparison is really helpful. There are a few references to Twin Peaks, like the way the victim is found and the oppressive atmosphere of the motel where Rousseau is staying. But neither the story nor the characters have any of the sickly-absurd quirkiness that define Twin Peaks, so claiming it is similar to Lynch’s series gives people a completely wrong idea about the film. The same goes for the comparison with the Coens.
The case and the characters have far more similarities with the quieter faction of Scandinavian detective stories. The story, the atmosphere, the cinematography – all seem to indicate a Scandinavian influence, even though I guess you could see a faint vibe of Fargo in the cinematography as well if you absolutely wanted to.
Nobody Else But You is a very good film. It is, in my opinion, as good as – but not necessarily better than – the top tier of Scandinavian detective films. I definitely recommend this film to those interested in these quieter types of investigation.
Availability: There is a North American DVD release (Region1), which is in the French original with English subtitles.
As far as I am aware, absolutely none of the existing Region2 releases do offer English subtitles – neither the French, nor the German, nor the Swedish releases (titled Who Killed Marilyn? and Mysteriet i Mouthe, respectively). And I do not know of any streaming possibilities. So European viewers would need to have access to a Region-free DVD player and order a Region1 disc.