La Vie et Rien d'Autre (Life and Nothing But) (1989) - Rotten Tomatoes

La Vie et Rien d'Autre (Life and Nothing But) (1989)

La Vie et Rien d'Autre (Life and Nothing But)





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La Vie et Rien d'Autre (Life and Nothing But) Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

The grim post-World War I era in Europe is grist for director Bertrand Tavernier's mill in Life and Nothing But. Philipe Noiret portrays a French major who is supervising the gruesome task of counting and identifying the corpses still strewn over the battlefield. Noiret is obsessed with the notion that, by doing his job above and beyond the call of duty, he can somehow make up for the carnage in which he participated a few years earlier. The major's mission is intercut with short vignettes involving the families and loved ones of the dead, and with the efforts by another officer to find a suitable candidate for an Unknown Soldier testimonial.more
Rating: PG
Genre: Art House & International, Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Jean Cosmos
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 5, 2004


Philippe Noiret
as Majeur Delaplane
Sabine Azéma
as Irene de Courtil
Daniel Russo
as Lieutenant Trévise
Michel Duchaussoy
as Général Villerieux
Arlette Gilbert
as Valentine
Adrienne Bonnet
as Mme. Ichac
W. Franke Harling
as One-armed man
Philippe Uchan
as Legless Man
Louis Lyonnet
as Valentin
Thierry Gimenez
as Adjudant du Genie
Pierre Trabaud
as Eugene Dilatoire
Jean-Roger Milo
as Mons. Lebegue
Catherine Verlor
as Bonne Soeur plage
Marion Loran
as Solange de Boissanco...
Charlotte Kadi
as Bonne Soeur hopital
Gabriel Cattand
as Prof. Mortier
Jean Champion
as Lagrange
Michel Cassagne
as Abel Mascle
Patrick Massieu
as Gardien cimetiere
Pascal Elso
as L'Aveugle
Odile Cointepas
as Madame Harnesson
Louba Guertchikoff
as La Femme aux yeux bl...
Jean-Claude Calon
as Sergent zele
Gilles Janeyrand
as Sous-Officier
Nicolas Tronc
as Soldier Lefevre
Jerome Frossard
as Soldat commissionnai...
Daniel Langlet
as Monsieur Lohac
Oswald d'Andréa
as Cora Mable, Pianist
Mickey Baker
as Banjo jazz
Stephen Potts
as Saxophonist
Mike Zwerin
as Jennings
Eric Dufay
as Soldat train
Michèle Gleizer
as La Fermiere
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for La Vie et Rien d'Autre (Life and Nothing But)

Critic Reviews for La Vie et Rien d'Autre (Life and Nothing But)

All Critics (9) | Top Critics (3)

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 10, 2004
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

A remarkable film about post World War I France

Full Review… | July 20, 2003
Spirituality and Practice

A masterfully directed film, exquistely acted by Azéma and Vidal.

July 10, 2003

July 1, 2005

Audience Reviews for La Vie et Rien d'Autre (Life and Nothing But)


Tallying the Forgotten

The average American no longer knows this, but Memorial Day was originally Decoration Day, the day when the graves of the Civil War dead were tended. The US Civil War is one of the first from which the average soldier's body even had a chance of being sent home. It's true that the great sweep of Arlington National Cemetery is full of those who did not make that last journey, including many buried with no name. The fields of Gettysburg, among other places, are filled with those who were buried pretty much as they lay. However, with the advent of railroad transportation, bodies stood a much better chance of getting home before they were too disgusting to contemplate. However, the way war works means that not all bodies will make it back to their loved ones. This was perhaps especially true in the first few "modern" wars, the ones where technology to inflict mayhem and death outstripped tactics based on older weaponry. In World War I, No-Man's-Land was full of the dead, and since the battles were relatively static, there was no way to retrieve the dead and bury them properly. And even if they had, the battle just came back that way again.

Responsible for finding as many of the lost dead as possible is Major Delaplane (Philippe Noiret), who served throughout the First World War and continues to serve France in the best way he can. It is 1920, and the official stance of the country involves putting the war as far behind it as possible. However, Major Delaplace has calculated that there are 349,771 soldiers missing. He wishes to find as many of them as possible and give their families, if not the body to bury, the certainty of their loved one's fate. Irène de Courtil (Sabine Azéma) is searching for her lost husband, who was heir to a large manufacturing concern. Her father-in-law is putting considerable pressure on the major, having decided that his son is the most important of the missing. Though the widow is the one doing the searching. Far, far lower on the social spectrum is Alice (Pascale Vignal), whose fiancé is also among the lost. Both women enter the major's life when a tunnel, collapsed by German bombs, is discovered to have a train full of corpses in it.

There are several unnecessary subplots, not least of which is a discovery the major makes about the two missing men. However, the film succeeds in projecting an air of the futility of Major Delaplace's mission. The government wants him to provide an unknown soldier from his district to put in a memorial at the Arc de Triomphe, and they are not interested in his insistence that he might actually be able to identify all the soldiers, given enough time and help. A sculptor declares that even bad artists have plenty of work now, because every town puts up a memorial. Indeed, two men want a district line redrawn because all seventeen of the men they sent to war survived, and there's a farm where two people went to war and didn't come back which might be included in their district, which would give them war dead. And increase the funding they get from the government. The other town won't miss having that farm in its district anyway, because they already have over thirty dead. And already, there is talk of the next war. Of course there will be a next war.

Even to Madame de Courtil, the dead are becoming little more than symbols. Her father-in-law apparently wants his son marked as officially dead because having a son killed in the war will do good things for his company. (I believe there is some talk of profiteering to be overcome.) The two men from that little town are ordering a war memorial even before they've had districting lines redrawn to give them war dead. Major Delaplane quotes a general as saying, "The war's devastating allure only appears to be destructive." Whereas local farmers are still (and I believe this is true even now, nearly a hundred years later) digging armaments out of their fields. Having an unknown soldier to bury is more important than returning a known soldier to his family. And the major's little squad of men seems far too small to search for over a quarter of a million men in a country, well, the size of France.

Madame de Courtil says at one point that she'd wanted her husband to go to war in the hope that he would come back different. Instead, he did not come back at all. Millions of men did not. It is only this knowledge which stands out about this film. We are not glorifying the war; it was brutal and disgusting, and men died needlessly. We are not even glorifying the war dead; they were just human. This may be why we find out what we do about Madame de Courtil's husband and Alice's fiancé. These people had secrets, and not all of them were good people. And even among the dead, having money and influence can make you more important than everyone else. The film only gives us a brief glimpse of the maimed in body and spirit, but their presence hangs in the background as another possible outcome. Probably a worse one, so far as Major Delaplane is concerned. The performances are almost weary most of the time, people who keep thinking they have seen the worst there is to see only to find out that they're wrong. Then again, it's difficult to make a really cheerful, positive movie about World War I. This is probably why so few movies are made about it at all.

Edith Nelson

Mar 09 - I enjoyed many of the sequences, dialogues and the main character but I admit I did not understand it for the most part.


Excellent French movie! One of the better movies I have seen out of the last 100 or so movies I have watched. Others title this film anti war but I just call it a strange look at the dead. The dead of war that is. A french military man is obsessed with the "numbers" (numbers as in accounting -keeping track of) of causalities. So the characters in this movie are out there in the front at the end of WW working with the dead-literally- by the 100s and 1000s. The film deals with the military man and two women who seek their missing (or dead husbands) the film deals with the humanity of those involved. I found this a very compassionate story - not a boring moment for me. This is my first look at a film by Tavernier I am researching some other films of his to view. Highly recommended. four stars

ld pierce

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