Saturday, November 26, 2011

Poupoupidou (Nobody Else But You)

PCMR Verdict: Suspicious suicide is investigated by a novelist in a wintry setting in this decent noir drama. Features a very creative cheese advert.

PCMR Rating: 6/10

Some icons are built to last. Their impact is so far-reaching, their stars shine so brightly, that they live on long after they've stopped working, after their death even. Marilyn Monroe is one such mega-star, and somewhat improbably, she is enjoying something of a mini-resurgence on cinema screens of late. To some acclaim, Michelle Williams is currently filling the shoes of the original sex symbol in 'My Week With Marilyn', and here, in Gérald Hustache-Mathieu's noir drama 'Poupoupidou', Sophie Quinton's character channels Marilyn to create a persona, and just might believe herself to be Marilyn reincarnate.

'Poupoupidou' is a slow-burning noir drama, and tells the story of the apparent suicide of local starlet Candice Lecoeur (played by Sophie Quinton). The story begins with novelist David Rousseau returning to Mouthe (pronounced mooth) - his rural home town on the Franco-Swiss border - to hear a reading of a will. Rousseau is prompted to investigate Lecoeur's death, after her snow-covered body is found clutching a pill bottle in the no-mans-land between the French and Swiss borders, and he slowly becomes tangled up in a web of intrigue, corruption and the desire to find out the truth about what really happened to Candice.

The lead character Rousseau is likeably played with a touch of humour by Jean-Paul Rouve, who sports a salt and pepper beard in this movie and bears an uncanny resemblance to Tommy Tiernan. There is a fair dose of dry humour in a lot of Rousseau's dialogue with the residents of Mouthe as he learns more and more about the demise of Candice. There is also humour in Candice's rise to fame, such as the cheese advert that launches her career, which is a genuinely funny sequence.

Rousseau gets his hands on Candice's diaries, and through the diaries we learn the story of Candice's rise to fame. We learn early on that Candice Lecoeur is a stage name and apparently comes with a built-in blonde bombshell persona, assumed by local weather girl and aspiring actress Martine Langevin as she rises to fame (or local notoriety at least). Rousseau also gradually wins over local copper Bruno, who shares Rousseau's curiosity, and worries about a cover-up.

Poupoupidou is a classic French polar: a noir police story involving corruption, intrigue and lots of twists and turns. The sure-footed script and generally likeable main characters mean it is a comfortable journey for the audience, and the unconventional setting mean it avoids too many clichés of the genre, until the third act at least, when the investigation comes to a head.

The wintry setting and dry, gentle sense of humour throughout prompted memories of Fargo for me, and although Poupoupidou never outright imitates the Coen Brothers' masterpiece, it is probably fair to say that it has taken some inspiration from it. This is a plus point for me.

Rouve is likeable company in the lead role, but Quinton is excellent as the fragile starlet who channels Marilyn Monroe for her ego, her confidence. Her story is nicely told through her own voice, and there is enough humour in the narrative to keep the tone from becoming too dark. Of note too is the prominent soundtrack, which features some off-beat contemporary choices a la Quentin Tarantino, but the music fits the mood of the movie, so it never jars.

On flaws, I've mentioned some clichés in the third act, but there is also a strange theme of mysticism in this movie, involving details such as repetitive numbers (the number 5 in particular), fate, and the reliving of past events that is never satisfactorily resolved for me, but that certainly adds an interesting element to Poupoupidou.

All in all, it's an enjoyable story, and despite its flaws, it's a neat movie that should hold your attention. Not a classic by any means, but a nice character-driven tale with enough personality and twists and turns to keep it a level above bog-standard fare.


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PaddyC said...

Well, thanks Anonymous, glad you stopped by!

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