Every Little Thing

(La Moindre des choses, Nicolas Philibert, France, 1996)


Nicolas Philibert’s To Be and To Have (2002), about a school in rural France, was an unexpected commercial success in several countries. But Philibert has been for too long an unsung master of the documentary form.

On par with America’s Frederick Wiseman, Philibert eschews many of the fashionable forms of documentary, from the overly cerebral essay-film to the television-driven obsession for "good stories" that has gripped many Australian practitioners.

Philibert’s films could be called cinéma-vérité if their modes of observational reportage were not so still, quiet, respectfully patient and artfully shaped.

All Philibert’s films are outstanding, but Every Little Thing deserves (alongside his masterpiece, In the Land of the Deaf [1992]) special recommendation.

This film will remind Australian moviegoers of Louis Nowra’s Cosi (1996), because it shares a similar situation: it is about the staging of a play (Witold Gombrowicz’s Operetta) by the staff and inmates of the progressive La Borde psychiatric clinic south of Paris.

La Borde was once at the centre of arguments in the ’60s and ’70s about the anti-psychiatry movement. Its director since that time, Jean Oury, figures centrally in this documentary.

Philibert brings out the subtle revolution in therapy noted in 1968 by La Borde’s most famous philosopher and worker, Félix Guattari: in every little daily gesture, staff and patients enter into a mutual adventure of growth and discovery.

© Adrian Martin March 2003

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
home    reviews    essays    search