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Posts Tagged ‘Louis Dega’

Papillon” (1973)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the prison / escape historical drama “Papillon“, starring Steve McQueen in the title role as Henri Charrière (aka: Papillon) and Dustin Hoffman as his friend and fellow prisoner Louis Dega.  Papillon is french for “butterfly”, which is the medium size tattoo character he has on his chest.  He has been sentenced to life without parole for murdering a pimp.  He insists he is only a safe-cracker and that he was framed for the murder.  The Dega character has been sentenced for forgery and embezzlement.
Before I forget to mention it, there is an outstanding supporting role of a prison warden (for solitary confinement) played by William Smithers.  In this movie, the system is the villain, but he makes an exceptional focal point for the “system”.
They get on a ship from France to French Guiana / Devil’s Island.  Papillon saves Dega’s life and contracts to protect Dega in exchange for Dega funding Papillon’s escape.  After several acts of bravery, Dega trusts that Papillon is a true friend and probably innocent of his conviction for murder.
Blah, blah, blah…  Brutality, betrayal, torture, escape attempt, solitary, torture, betrayal, solitary…  you get the point.  There are three things to take from this film: man’s inhumanity towards our fellow man; friendship; and, the indomitability of some men’s spirit.  In the end, Papillon escapes and “outlives” his prison.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it entertaining?  Is it worth seeing?  If you are a fan of either McQueen or Hoffman, I believe this movie is a MUST see.  McQueen plays a different role /character than normal – he doesn’t settle for “cool”.  He acts.  Hoffman really “just” plays Hoffman, but he does it very well and it’s kind of a mini-display of many of his doddering roles in other films.  That sounds like a put-down, but it’s not meant in that spirit.
Is it an entertaining movie?  No.  Try as I might to find joy in the progress and eventual success, I did not.  The movie is just too long and there is only so much punishment you can watch before you start to feel victimized too, and I don’t watch movies to feel victimized (too).  I won’t say it was boring.  It just felt plodding.
Is it worth seeing?  Again, it depends…  It is supposed to based on a real life experience, it does have two good actors in two above average performances, and finally, it is a story about perseverance and the triumph of the human spirit.  So, yeah, I guess it is “worth” viewing.
Final recommendation: moderate.  The acting is good.  The end result of the movie is satisfying (spoiler: he gets away).  But the movie really just felt almost as suffocating as the prison, so it would be hard to give it a higher rating.
Two final notes:  First, there has been a remake, in 2017, but the reviews were pretty bland, so I’m not sure I’d spend another two hours on this story.  And, second, I don’t remember this “movie”, but I feel as if I definitely must have seen it before because I distinctly remembered the last ten minutes (the satisfying bit of the movie).   Coconuts, anyone?
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2017 Are You Talking To Me?
2016 Here, Desire Is Purified
2015 Hopefully Just Visiting
2014 Fond Memory?
2013 Distress, Hope, Trust
2012 Creating Interlocking Fragility
2011 Four Stories And A Gospel
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