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CRABE TAMBOUR, LE

In 1977, Pierre Schoendorffer, a veteran of the Indochina War and a prominent French film-maker, adapted his novel Le crabe tambour for the big screen. The main protagonist of the film is based on the real life experiences of a French navy captain, Pierre Guillaume. The latter distinguished himself in combat in the Mekong Delta during the Indochina War and received the Légion d’honneur for his military feats at the age of 25. When Guillaume’s brother perished in combat in Algeria, Pierre replaced him and ended up joining in the officers’ Putsch designed to keep Algeria French and to prevent the army from losing another war. Guillaume spent eight years in a French prison for his actions in the Organisation de l’armée secrète. Schoendorffer uses Guillaume’s tragic yet heroic itinerary as the trope for his film’s reflection on the destiny of the French army in some 30 years of mainly colonial war. Through a series of flashbacks, Schoendorffer tells the story of forsaken French soldiers and officers, this time through the now aged and dying sailor representing Guillaume, as he makes his last mission through the foggy waters of the North Sea with painful, shrouded memories of the Indochina and Algerian Wars. Raoul Coutard, a close friend of Schoendorffer and a veteran of the Indochina War too, collaborated on the film’s photography and received a César in 1978 for it. Jean Rochefort, Jacques Perrin, and Claude Rich starred in the film. Rochefort received a César for best actor. Le crabe tambour remains something of a cult film in France, and not just for those located on the Right of the French political spectrum. See also 317ème SECTION; CINEMA; COMICS AND WAR; NOVELS.