A semi-fictional account of Henri Charrière's time in the penal system in French Guyana - some of it spent on infamous Devil's Island - is presented. It's the early 1930s. Charrière - nicknamed Papillon because of his butterfly tattoo - and Louis Dega are two among many who have been convicted in the French judicial system, they now being transferred to French Guyana where they will serve their time, never to return to France even if they are ever released. A safe-cracker by criminal profession, Papillon is serving a life sentence for murdering a pimp, a crime for which he adamantly states he was framed. Dega is a wealthy counterfeiter, who expects his well-to-do wife eventually to get him released. On Papillon's initiative, Papillon and Dega enter into a business arrangement: Papillon will provide protection for Dega, while Dega will finance Papillon's escape attempt. As Papillon and Degas' time together lasts longer than either expects, their burgeoning friendship ends up being an ... Written by
The meaning of the film and source novel's title "Papillon" is "Butterfly" from the French language. It is pronounced, "PAP-PEE-YONH". Papillon also refers to the butterfly tattoo that Henri Charrière (Steve McQueen) has. Papillon is also the nickname given to Charrière. The title of the film Butterfly (1982) also refers to a Butterfly tattoo. See more »
The guillotine permanently erected in the prison courtyard is a piece of pure Hollywood. By the 1870's, the French had developed demountable guillotines that could be easily transported and set up in the town square wherever an execution was to take place, taking only an hour or so to assemble and dis-assemble. There is ample evidence that the 'bagne' (Caribbean penal colony) had one of these, which would have only been brought out of storage when needed. Had it been left permanently exposed to the tropical sun and rain, its timbers would have very rapidly deteriorated and warped to render it unusable. See more »
I know you, you're Degas. You're a very intelligent man!
Thank you. I seem to be known in all the wrong places.
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Terrifying film dealing with life in prison. Not just any prison, but one way off to itself with few fellow human beings around. I think this was McQueen's finest film ever, and perhaps Hoffman's also. I know it has had a lasting effect on me through the years; I have never forgotten the awesome loneliness the prisoners went through. Great picture, thumbs up.
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