Capitaine Conan Reviews
The film begins with Lieutenant Norbert (Samuel Le Bihan) positioned in some trenches opposite the Bulgarians awaiting the return of his friend and hero Lieutenant (afterwards Capitaine) Conan (Philippe Torreton).
Conan commands a special unit, a "Corps-Franc", composed of men selected by himself personally, they operate in autonomy and use rather unconventional weapons and tactics against the enemy.
After much fighting the Bulgarians surrender and the Armée is redeployed to Bucarest.
Much of the film is focused on the time spent in Bucarest.
Many French soldiers behave badly and Norbert ,who is tasked with patrolling the streets, has a tough job keeping law and order in this foreign country.
Norbert is promoted to Accusateur, it is his task to court-martial the wrong-doers, after a club is robbed and two women brutally killed in the progress Norbert has to those between courtmartialing the culprits or bending to Conan's wishes and letting them go for the culprits were members of Conan's special unit and he had sworn to look after them.
When this disagreement has passed the two friends take up the case of a young man accused of deserting by his superior officer even though he had only got lost and stumbled into enemy lines, they lose the case and the young man is sentenced to be shot.
But before either the culprits of the attack on the club or the young man can be shot, the army is ordered out to the Danube to defend against the Russian Bolsheviks, during a battle in which the Bolsheviks attempt a crosing of the river the now Capitaine Conan seeing that Norbert is in difficulty gathers the prisoners waiting to be executed and leads them to victory in a terrible battle during which the young man accused of deserting is killed.
Several years later we see Lieutenant Norbert seeking out Captiaine Conan in a small village in France, both are now retired but Conan seems to be deteriorating rapidly and in the last scene of the film explains why his men who were the best around were also the most traumatised.
I had never heard about the Armée d'Orient before and found this film very informative. I liked the fact that the film wasn't focused entirely on fighting but also on the lifestyles of the troops, how they were moved around how they behaved in a foreign country...
The acting was terrific all around but especially by Philippe Torreton as Conan(he won a César for his performance), Conan is more than a soldier he is a warrior, fighting is what he does best and without it he quickly fades away, he is also a man with principles and a true leader of men.
The other characters were interesting, the young Norbert who looks up to Conan but can never truly be like him, the Generals and Colonels who are all pompous old fools who rarely ever know what is actually going on during the battles. This film show that the battles weren't won by the generals but by the common soldiers.
The direction was superb, with a kind of false documentary style during the battles and a fast-paced direction throughout the whole film.
The plot was quite hard to pick up as the viewer is immediately thrown into the film and presented with these characters right from the beginning. The plot weakens a little during the middle but gradually picks up again and leads to a climatic ending.
The screenplay was good with many outdated words and expressions adding to the realism, Conan was hard to understand at times as he spoke very fast and had quite an accent (I didn't have subtitles).
The soundtrack was very good throughout even though I didn't like the pieces with a woman singing in another language that much.
Overall this is a very interesting film covering an often overlooked part of WW1 and the many aspects of the French army.
Highly recommended for anyone wishing to learn more about this vague part of history, or for fans of Tavenier(he won a Cesar for his direction).