Winner of "Best Film Not in the English Language" at the 1990 BAFTA Film Awards.
Deemed a "masterpiece" by critic David Thomson, LIFE AND NOTHING BUT is one of director Bertrand Tavernier's most ambitious films. With this gorgeously photographed anti-war epic, Tavernier examines the emotional hurdles that separate rich from poor, men from women, history from truth and regret from hope. A year after WWI has ended, cynical Major Dellaplane (Philippe Noiret) has the difficult task of identifying and interring thousands of fallen French soldiers anonymously languishing in field hospitals and littering the vast Verdun battlefield. Dellaplane has also become reluctant shepherd to an ad hoc society grown around the legions of widowed wives and mothers combing the French countryside for word of their loved ones. When a buried hospital train yields a fresh source of possibly recognizable bodies, Irene, a haughty Parisian aristocrat and Alice, a hopeful young schoolteacher, form an unlikely alliance with the Major. As the train's surprising cargo is revealed, the three searchers must choose between life in a post-war world stripped of illusions or the seductive self-imprisonment of bitterness and mourning for days, lives and loves gone by. Tavernier regular Noiret won a French César for his performance opposite the (according to the Washington Post) "ravishingly gifted actress" Sabine Azéma as Irène. In courageously and gracefully celebrating inexhaustible human resilience and burgeoning romance amidst unspeakably appalling loss, LIFE AND NOTHING BUT "conveys both the fragile and the indestructible" (New York Times).
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Tavernier took a very interesting subject: the missing in France's war and the travesty of looking for an 'unknown soldier', but let it get off the tracks a bit, in a love story between Noiret and a tiresome Sabine Azema.