My favorite book as a teen was “Papillon,” written ex-con Henri Charriere detailing his years in the French penal colonies of South America — French Guiana and Devil’s Island off its coast.
Nicknamed “Papillon,” French for “butterfly,” after a tattoo on his chest, he repeatedly escaped from these inescapable hells, endured the unendurable, found a little piece of paradise and “escaped” that, too.
And lived to tell the tale and write a best seller about it. I must have read the damned thing five-10 times. The 1973 big screen version starred Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, and wasn’t bad. Just epic enough.
As you can see from the Wikipedia entry, the book is now called an “autobiographical novel.” He borrowed adventures from some, made others up. Barely true enough is my guess about its veracity.
Bleecker Street is advertising this remake as “the incredible true story,” but Charriere’s tale was widely discredited shortly after it came out, and more thoroughly in the decades since.
Still, a ripping good “yarn,” and Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek make an interesting pairing. No McQueen/Hoffman, but they’ll do. Danish director Michael Noer isn’t the most experienced hand at feature film directing.
It’s being dumped at the end of August, sadly. And this is Bleecker St., after all, which “couldn’t market merlot to a wino.” But might be worth hunting down right around Labor Day. If it’s still in theaters.