Monday, December 23, 2013

Papillon - Movie Review

Watched this old classic again.  Based on a true life story (contested again) of Henri Charriere who wrote the best selling novel of the same name after having lived the same life supposedly, Papillon stars the king of escape movies Steve Mc Queen who teams up with the embezzling accountant Lousi Dega (Dustin Hoffman). The jail in the penal colony at French Guiana and its conditions are shown rather starkly and its not a nice place to go. However McQueen has other ideas and he is constantly in some solitary confinement or another until he gets caught and sent to another. In the meantime he meets a lot of interesting characters.

Papillon (butterfly in French) attempts to fly away, is incarcerated, loses his mind, eats insects, regains health (not by eating insects though, makes friends in a leper colony and smokes their cigar with them, escapes to a distant island with Hoffman and another chap, ends up in a tribe, marries a tribal girl, is captured again and sent back to jail where he bumps into Hoffman again. All this takes about thirty years or so and he is a tired and old man physically but his heart is that of a butterfly - always looking to fly. And once again, he finds an escape route at that ripe old age, decoding a pattern in the waves, and riding off on the seventh wave on a sack of coconuts to freedom.

McQueen is great as Papillon, unpredictable and full of energy, and there are times when he looked physically very strong and times when you think he'll die in a moment. Hoffman is his usual stiff and bumbling self. Told over a long period there are times when we lose track of what and where but you never lose track of the free spirit of the man called Papillon. Without any doubt it would have looked phenomenal on the big screen.

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