Imagine Raymond Chandler, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller, and JFK showing up in a rural wasteland near the French-Swiss border. Add a few snowdrifts, a rundown hotel, an unsolved murder, and writer’s block. In the neo-noir black comedy Nobody Else But You, written and directed by Gérald Hustache-Mathieu, the cast of characters we encounter are not such glamorous immortals of yesteryear after all. They’re just ordinary folks with big dreams. Lucky for us, they’re funnier, more complex, and far more down-to-earth than their famous counterparts.

Our story begins in the small town of Mouthe, where crime writer David Rousseau (Jean-Paul Rouve) winds up in yet another search for inspiration. The local celebrity, who graces their “Belle de Jura” cheese packaging, is Candice Lecoeur (Sophie Quinton), a winsome blonde who models herself after the one and only, Marilyn. Rousseau, in a classic case of good or bad timing (depending on your perspective), arrives just as Candice’s corpse is being hauled into the local morgue. It’s an open and shut case according to local authorities, who declare it a death by sleeping pills. But our obsessive amateur detective has other ideas about her demise and wastes no time in bumbling his own way into the case.

Keep in mind, this is French cinema. As such, it delivers a generous portion of Gallic off-kilter humor with its evil doing, worthy of a François Truffaut or a Jean Luc-Godard in such memorable films as Jules and Jim or Breathless. What it lacks is the tragic, heart-in-your mouth ending of those films, but director Hustache-Mathieu has a lighter, frothier, more accessible touch. And while those earlier films boasted the luminous talents of Jeanne Moreau and Jean Seberg, Nobody Else But You gives us the sparkling beauty of Sophie Quinton.

This is the fourth time that Hustache-Mathieu has chosen Miss Quinton as his star. She’s not only his favorite actress but her transcendent quality gives an extra depth to what could otherwise be a simply clever multi-genre thriller. A cinematic pastiche of styles is one that is familiar to the director. Though he set out to tackle the noir genre, in an interview with First Run Features (the distributor of the film), he admits that he couldn’t reinvent his own approach to filmmaking, “I like mixing genres, combining the serious with the seemingly lighthearted…because as I see it, real life is like that.”

A light touch for this filmmaker does not only mean a series of pratfalls, a sexy striptease, or a jazzy-pop film score. You’ll find more than a hint of these, certainly, but the slow, sleepily romantic sequences, when he puts the landscape as well as his leading lady front and center, are memorable.

When Rousseau manages to break into Candice’s apartment and discovers her diaries, the film contrives to reveal their content through a series of voice-overs. But the most visually haunting of these actually occurs at the film’s beginning, when we see her snowbound corpse in close-up. This moonlit landscape serves as a moving metaphor for the starlets own eternal slumber in death. “I’m floating,” she tells us, as the camera lovingly caresses her face.

Conversely, the director manages to use these flat frozen stretches to evoke a mood of a totally different order. We see Rousseau trudging about in this white wasteland for clues, accompanied by Brigadier Leloup, (Guillaume Gouix), who is totally bemused by this eccentric stranger but willing to go along for the ride. Rousseau’s every footstep in the snow is a deafening crunch, and he admits to having hypersensitive hearing since childhood. Like the best fall guys (Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau being the master of the genre), he appears unaware of his own absurdity, whether marching through the woods like a crazed water diviner or sitting in a squalid tub, with a round of cheese and a bottle of wine to ease his sore muscles.

Jean-Paul Rouve comes from a long line of French actors who manage to seduce the audience with a disarming, dishabille charm – Jean-Paul Belmondo and Yves Montand chief among the forefathers of this type. There’s a downtrodden handsomeness about Rouve and an emotional transparency, even when he tries to hide it that captivates the viewer.

If our protagonist was an easy decision for the filmmaker, the barren and forlorn setting — in spite of the natural scenic beauty — seems an unlikely choice. Why Mouthe, one wonders.

Discovering the place in a news clip, the Hauts-Doubs region reminded him of the Midwest or Minnesota and a perfect site for his story. “As French filmmakers, we constantly find ourselves up against the American myth. I wanted to work my way around this by going and finding the ‘America’ in Mouthe,” he said. In the literal sense, the emptiness of the setting with its band of local yokels summons the comic tableaus of the Coen Brothers’ Fargo or Twin Peaks, the TV hit of the late ’80s. It’s no coincidence that the soundtrack intermittently blares out “California Dreamin’” because the whole town is drunk on their own impossible dreams — from the hairdresser longing to be a novelist’s muse to LeLoup’s desire to join the Canadian police force. Of course, the biggest self-deceiver of them all is Marilyn herself.

Through eerily surreal sequences and flashbacks, the film allows us to get closer to the character herself and her obsessions. Believing herself to be the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe, at one point Candice confesses that, “I was another girl I didn’t know yet.” One of those rare actresses who can melt into the age and attitude of her own diary entries, Miss Quinton manages to be an impish teenager pumping gas to a successful TV commercial performer. She begs comparisons to a younger Michelle Pfeiffer or Jacqueline Bisset. But here, she’s simply Candice LeCouer. From a guileless orphan to a femme-fatale, she never misses a beat.

Marilyn is the perfect embodiment of the star that could never find her true self in her roles. A source of endless fascination for many, one might assume a certain reluctance to add to the heap of impersonations and tributes about her. The director’s intention, as stated in the interview, was simply to make a thriller about a detective and his victim. Then he discovered a psychiatrist whose patient, a singer in the rock group Pandemonia, believed herself to be reincarnated from the long-dead star. That’s when the film took on a totally new dimension.

“Marilyn’s personality has been analyzed, her body autopsied and scrutinized in detail, and even though she revealed everything, including her breasts and buttocks, we are still all looking at Marilyn’s true persona. She still is, and always will be, an enigma,” Hustache-Mathieu says.

It is to Hustache-Mathieu’s credit that the implausible likelihood of Candice’s life taking on so many of the parallel incidences of Marilyn’s own, does not deter us from the pure enjoyment of the movie. The supporting cast, including, as love interests, a pseudo-intellectual journalist (a charming Éric Ruf) and a local politician (Ken Samuels), act as stand-ins for Arthur Miller and John Kennedy in Candice’s fantasies. At one point in the script, she even does a risqué “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” that scandalizes the community and sets her own fate on a downward spiral.

Ultimately, the film works not because of its all-too-numerous parallels to Marilyn’s real life, but simply because they exist as Candice’s own loopy projections. In a delectable performance, Quinton was never meant to be a carbon copy of the legendary star (Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn was perfectly cast for that chore). She only imagines herself to be the tragic icon. Her performance as Candice/Marilyn is far too crafty for that. She wills the motley crew that surrounds her to be the characters in this play of her own making and in that way, she succeeds. Even by becoming the unfortunate victim of her own delusions, she gives Rousseau his inspiration. Perhaps his next book will be his Black Dahlia.

As he confides to us in a final, bittersweet moment, “It’s always at the end that the story begins.”

Rating: 4 out of 4 stars

“Nobody Else But You” (French with English subtitles) opens at New York’s Cinema Village on May 11, 2012. For more information visit or

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