LA VIE DES MORTS a film by ARNAUD DESPLECHIN. 1991, France, 54 min. IN PARTNERSHIP WITH MEZZANINE. The exhilarating, rarely screened debut from one of our favorite contemporary filmmakers.

This film screened exclusively for a week and is currently not available online.

We’re thrilled to present the 2016 restoration of French luminary Arnaud Desplechin’s rarely screened debut, La Vie des morts. Since our screening coincides with the Cannes premiere of Desplechin’s newest feature, Brother and Sister, it’s the perfect occasion to look back on the first Cannes selection from one of our favorite filmmakers. We’re also pleased to partner with the LA-based independent and revival film series Mezzanine for this screening.


Winner of the Prix Jean Vigo, La Vie des morts is a stirring ensemble piece set in a country home, where a large extended family gathers in the aftermath of their young cousin’s suicide attempt. During a weekend of quiet uncertainty, his characters circle each other and trade thoughts (and barbs) about art, anxiety, spirituality, and love. In ever-surprising shifts in tone, Desplechin seems eager to explore every possible emotional response to grief, both directly and obliquely, devastatingly and humorously.




“I wanted to work with a lot of actors, actors from different backgrounds—popular actors, established actors, actors coming from the screen, actors coming from the stage—to show that there are so many ways of acting, which means we have so many ways of being human.” ARNAUD DESPLECHIN


Desplechin wrote La Vie des morts assuming that it might be his only film. At the time, he was concerned he would never raise money to make his first feature La Sentinelle. “When we are speaking about love, we always say that quality is very important, and I think that quantity is quite important too,” he has said of the film’s sprawling cast of characters. Although La Vie des morts had difficulties finding distribution due to its mid-length running time, it’s a stunning early showcase for Desplechin’s irrepressible pathos; it also introduces several of Desplechin’s most indispensable collaborators, like Emmanuelle Devos and Marianne Denicourt.


Desplechin was born in 1960 in Roubaix, France, where many of his masterworks are set, and studied filmmaking at the Sorbonne and the IDHEC. Before turning to directing, he worked as a cinematographer on films by Nico Papatakis and Éric Rochant. His endlessly adventurous features include his international breakout My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument, which earned his muse Mathieu Amalric a César for Most Promising Actor; his tempestuous, Catherine Deneuve–starring A Christmas Tale; and My Golden Days, for which he won a César and Lumière for directing.


Text written by Chloe Lizotte. Special thanks to Arnaud Desplechin, Micah Gottlieb & Why Not Productions for making this screening possible.


Credits for
Bernard Ballet, Grégori Baquet, Eric Bonicatto, Benoist Brione, André Cellier, Laurence Côte, Marianne Denicourt, Emmanuelle Devos, Suzel Goffre, Nita Klein, Nicolas Koretzky, Roch Leibovici, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Elisabeth Masby, Thibault de Montalembert, Hélène Roussel, Georges Rucki, Laurent Schilling, Emmanuel Singer & Suzanne Waters
written by
Arnaud Desplechin
produced by
Pascal Caucheteux & Anne Defurne
Éric Gautier
Laurence Briaud & François Gedigier
Marjolaine Ott, Fritz Sommer & Marc Sommer
Bernard Borel, Richard Gellé, Olivier Hespel, Olivier de Nesle & Éric Tisserand
production design
Antoine Platteau
costume design
Marie Baudrillonet, Virginie Callot, Bénédicte Platteau & Ghislaine Tortereau