A compelling successor to such antiwar movies as Stanley Kubrick's PATHS OF GLORY and Lewis Milestone's ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, focusing, like these earlier films, on WWI. Instead of detailing the ongoing carnage of life in the trenches, however, Tavernier paints a grim portrait
of devastation after the fact. The year is 1920 (almost two years after the Armistice), and the massive task of counting corpses and identifying the missing among the French soldiers remains. Supervising these efforts is Major Dellaplane (Noiret), a career soldier obsessed with detail who turns
his responsibility into a personal crusade to justify the sacrifice made by the dead men, believing that by naming the unidentified and humanizing the statistics, he can somehow make sense of the horror that has occurred. Dellaplane's quest to tie up war's loose ends is interwoven with the tale of
another officer's mission to locate a suitable unknown soldier for ceremonial enshrinement in the Arc de Triomphe, and with vignettes concerning families seeking information about the fate of loved ones.
Cowritten by Tavernier and Jean Cosmos (a playwright and TV scenarist making his screenwriting debut), LIFE AND NOTHING BUT is a carefully wrought drama about the emotionally shell-shocked survivors of WWI. Somber, handsome, exquisitely produced, with a towering performance by Noiret in what is
reportedly his 100th screen role, Tavernier's elegy strikes no false notes. With an extraordinary talent for conveying the bustle of life amidst the stasis of death, Tavernier employs his sweeping camera and his skill in relating characters to their widescreen environment to create an
unforgettable mise-en-scene. Despite its brilliant technical accomplishment and its seamless blend of gallows humor and intriguing drama, however, Tavernier's examination of lives held in check by the fortunes of war lacks the full-throttle emotionalism that might have made it a classic pacifist
epic. Visually, Tavernier's work with the superb de Keyzer couldn't be improved upon (as in the haunting final shot), but one does wish it were a little less calculated, a little more reckless.
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- Released: 1989
- Rating: PG
- Review: A compelling successor to such antiwar movies as Stanley Kubrick's PATHS OF GLORY and Lewis Milestone's ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, focusing, like these earlier films, on WWI. Instead of detailing the ongoing carnage of life in the trenches, however, T… (more)