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Life and Nothing But
Life and Nothing But
Actors: Philippe Noiret, Sabine Azéma, Pascale Vignal, Maurice Barrier, François Perrot
Director: Bertrand Tavernier
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
PG     2004     2hr 15min

Two women of differing backgrounds are looking for the missing men they love. Along the way they encounter two french officers one detailed to identify the dead and the other assigned to choose a body to be honored as fran...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Philippe Noiret, Sabine Azéma, Pascale Vignal, Maurice Barrier, François Perrot
Director: Bertrand Tavernier
Creators: Bruno de Keyzer, Bertrand Tavernier, Armand Psenny, Albert Prévost, Frédéric Bourboulon, René Cleitman, Jean Cosmos
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance, Military & War
Studio: Kino Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/05/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 2hr 15min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: French
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Looking for love
M. Ferrer | SPAIN | 12/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Major Delaplane has been comisioned by the French government to find a body to be buried under L'Arc de Triounph. It must be the body of a soldier not claimed by his family. Meanwhile Irene de Courtil, a lady form a wealthy family is looking for her husband's remains.

They and several others arrived to a place where a military French train destroyed by the German army is buried inside a tunnel. People go there trying to find their husbands, sons and brothers and also trying to end with a war who has been terrible.

These two characters are distant, they had problems to develope any intimate relation. Delaplane is a soldier, he thinks like one and acts like one. But he is also a man who has seen so much death and destruction that he has reached a point where nothing cares to him. Irene is a woman who has lived a predictable life, she is a lady , in all the extension of the word. Who now feels out of place among people who has felt the war in its cruelest way. They start their relation fighting each other. But also fighting their concern to care about someone. Because they are afraid of having an intimate relation with anyone.

This film talks not only about the hypocrisy of war and the pain it creates, but also about love. The fear we feel when we love, if we dare to do it again after the pain love has done to us.

The performances of Sabine Azema and Philippe Noiret are wonderful. They can show us their fragility with such economy of gestures and words that you cannot avoid to feel moved by them.

A wonderful film that will remain in your memory for a long time"
Sadness, cynicism and sardonic humor in a fine Bertrand Tave
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 11/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"There are at least five stories in Life and Nothing But, and most of them could make a movie in themselves. There is the story of Major Delaplane (Philippe Noiret) who in 1920 has the task of trying to identify the 350,000 French soldiers who remain on the missing roles. There is the story of the hypocrisy behind the choosing of an unknown soldier who eventually will be buried with great pomp and honors beneath the Arc de Triomphe. There is the story of Irene de Courtil (Sabine Azema), married to a missing soldier who comes from a rich and privileged family. There is the story of Alice (Pascale Vignal) whose fiancee and lover was last seen in a battle where hundreds of soldiers were wounded or killed. And we have the story of the thousands of wives, parents, brothers and sisters of those 350,000 missing men who, nearly two years after the end of WWI, still have no idea of what happened to their men...are they alive, are they dead, are they horribly wounded, are they forgotten in some hospital or mental ward?

Delaplane is an army officer who is consumed by his job of identifying the missing, of finding corpses and tracing who they were. His superiors think he is reckless and unreliable. The generals, the politicians and the industrialists want nothing more than to let the missing stay missing. That way bad decisions and pointless battles may escape notice, and protected factories can go back to business. Delaplane is even more cynical as he sees the rush to find the remains of an unidentified soldier to be honored in Paris. He has to deal with the aristocratic Madame de Courtil and with the schoolteacher, Alice. He is brusque and cynical, yet he is dedicated to finding and identifying every one of those 350,000 missing men that he possibly can.

One long, outstanding sequence takes place in a huge, unstable railway tunnel. Toward the end of the war a train carrying munitions, gas shells, supplies and a car full of wounded soldiers entered the tunnel. The Germans in retreat had mined the place and it blew. Now, two years later and deep in the tunnel, Delaplane is trying to dig through the rubble, the unexploded gas shells and the torn tracks and find the car of bodies. In the field nearby relatives are waiting. Soldiers are sifting through dirt and rubble to find traces of bodies and belongings. Tables have been set up holding every manner of object which have been recovered so far, some matched with the bodies they were found on. People pass by the tables trying to find something that would tell them the fate of a loved one. They don't expect life; they just want closure.

Tavernier holds these stories together thanks to the power of Philippe Noiret as Major Delaplane, to the power of outrage at what Delaplane is up against, and to a script which manages to combine sardonic humor with a look at what the bureaucracies of war do to the men who fight the wars. This is not a grim movie, but a poignant and sad one. "One patriotic song and off they go to war," says Irene de Courtil to Delaplane. They had been seated at a small restaurant where a black jazz band had been playing. Then a French woman came on stage and sang a song of how we can fight and then be comrades. The young soldiers all stood and joined in the song. So did Delaplane. "It's a club," she says fiercely to Delaplane. "It will be a club for years to come, this club of those who won the war. And the losing side will have its club, too. You know why I think of clubs? Because women aren't admitted! Nothing scares you men more than women, their wombs, their courage, their watching eyes..."

And yet, as a friend and sculptor points out to Delaplane, the remains of the war now mean great business. "It's the Golden Age, my friend," he says. "Nothing like it since the Greeks, since the cathedrals. Even mediocre artists have their hands full. A monument per village. Three hundred sculptors for 35,000 towns. Everybody wants his doughboy, his widow, his pyramid, his marble, bas-reliefs, inscriptions. It's a factory. Better than the Renaissance. It's the resurrection." "Thanks to our dead," says Delaplane.

Eventually the stories come together. The unknown soldier is selected with pomp and cynicism. Says Delaplane, "Officials are reassured by the story of the unknown soldier. They had a million and a half men killed, and now we'll only think about this one." Delaplane discovers the fate and identity of Irene's husband and Alice's lover. There are some twists and turnings. While each major character either chooses or is forced to choose life, the future for Delaplane and Irene is indefinite. On balance, while I liked this movie a lot, there still are probably too many things going on for Tavernier to handle with complete success. Still, it's always a satisfying experience to see Philippe Noiret, with those shrewd eyes and bloodhound eye lids, take on a role of real substance.

The DVD transfer looks very good. There is one significant extra, a fine filmed interview with Tavernier and Noiret talking about the movie and how it was developed. For those interested in Tavernier, you might want to watch one of the blackest of black comedies, Coup de Torchon, also with Noiret. For good jazz and a fine story, 'Round Midnight is worth seeing. And for rip-roaring sword-fights, try D'Artagnan's Daughter."
War and Relationship:Very French
R Mok | Hong kong | 01/06/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"As the title suggests, nothing disrupts life and living persons and definitely not war. Along with humane messages, an impressively strong portray of loving sentiments. Noiret, excellent acting of the lead part. Every now and then, I watched it again and again. Recommended"
The Tragic Aftermath Of War
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 10/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Life and Nothing But" is a French film with subtitles. It is highly recommended. One of the tragic aftermath's of the First World War was the unusually high numbers of 'unknown' and 'missing' soldiers. Part of this lie in the fact that many soldiers who fought on the western front in the war were literally 'atomized' by the intense artillary shells pounding at their positions day and night. In the film, Major Delaphane (Phillipe Noiret) has the unfortunate task of trying to put names to the dead.

But there are also many whose faces have been disfigured, and he has devised a system whereby he has been able to identify over 51,000 of the dead. These 51,000 account for over 350,000 still unknown. In the film the viewer can witness the agony of the loved one's who arrive at the battlefield's looking for anything to recognize the deceased. Even if the identity is in doubt, these families want closure in order to put flowers and pray over their loved one's. Truly tragic.

Major Delaphane is given the order to locate a set of soldier's who are not recognizable; and he must choose one that in French. This one soldier, whose remains are unknown is to be place under the Arc de Triomphe. This is to recognize ALL of those who will never be recognized. The tragedy is that this is true [not in the film] but in real life. If anyone has ever walked the WWI battlefields of France, you will notice in the cemeteries, both French and British, that many of the grave markers are marked 'Unknown' and this is the tragedy of this war. I highly recommend the film, it is insightful, and touching."