Captain Conan

Not a Schwarzenegger sword-and-sorcery epic but a nuanced 1996 drama based on a little-known episode of World War I, in which French troops were compelled to fight an undeclared war in the Balkans long after the armistice had been signed. The title hero (Philippe Torreton), who leads the scruffy guerrilla units, regards himself as more a warrior than a soldier; the only fellow officers he respects are a nobleman in the infantry (Bernard Le Coq) and a humane lieutenant assigned to a military tribunal (Samuel Le Bihan). Director Bertrand Tavernier has a keen eye for period detail, and his use of handheld cameras in the battle scenes is impressive. At times the film evokes Kubrick's Paths of Glory, though its antiwar sentiments are more querulous than didactic. This is a fine prosaic account of a neglected subject, but don't expect much poetry. Tavernier and Jean Cosmos adapted an autobiographical novel by Roger Vercel; Torreton?s intense performance won him a Cesar prize for best actor, while Tavernier received one for best director.

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