Presented by Dominique Besnehard on France 5, Place au cinema pays tribute this evening to Jacques Perrin with this classic by Pierre Schoendoerffer, released 45 years ago.
A film inspired by real events
Released in 1977, The Drum Crab takes us aboard the Jauréguiberry, a military assistance ship whose commander (played by Jean Rochefort) – a patient who knows he is doomed by cancer – hopes to see one last time at sea before dying a former comrade in arms of the wars from Indochina and Algeria, who became a fisherman off the coast of Newfoundland. The latter is called Willsdorff but he is directly inspired by the life of Lieutenant Pierre Guillaume. A character rich in asperities, in contradictions and in ambiguity who, at the end of the Indochina war, disobeying the high command, saved by embarking them on the buildings under his orders, 1,600 Catholic Vietnamese wanting to flee communism. Before, years later, being sentenced to 8 years in prison for having taken part in the Algiers putsch in 1961 and then having gone over to the side of the OAS. Schoendoerffer had made him the central character of his novel with the eponymous title published in 1976 (awarded the Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie Française) which he therefore brought to the screen a year later. Pierre Guillaume participated in the film as an adviser and he even appears on screen during a trial scene in the clothes of a prosecutor.
The Perrin-Schoendoerffer reunion
It is Jacques Perrin, who died yesterday at the age of 80, who embodies Willsdorff on the screen. The Drum Crab marked his second collaboration with Pierre Schoendoerffer, twelve years after The 317th Platoon. The two men had been introduced by producer Georges de Beauregard (who also co-finances The Drum Crab). In an interview at Studio CineLive in 2016, Jacques Perrin explained that “ even if they did not share the same ideas on the military thing, their relations had never been encumbered by political considerations. Because with Schoendoerffer, it was the film and the film alone that dictated his relationship with each of the actors » before specifying that « Pierre did not direct his actors. That for him, you had to be a point, that’s all. That he needed everyone to suffer, be hungry or tired, like what he had experienced in his flesh as a soldier. ” After The Drum Crab, the two men will meet twice. For A Captain’s Honor in 1982 then for Up there, a king above the cloudsSchoendoerffer’s last feature film, released in 2004.
A triple Caesarized film
The Drum Crab was named 6 times during the 1978 César ceremony which saw Providence by Alain Resnais triumph in best film and direction. And he left with three statuettes. That of the best actor for Jean Rochefort against Alain Delon (Death of a rotten), Charles Denner (The man who loved women), Gérard Depardieu (Tell her that I love her) and Patrick Dewaere (Judge Fayard said the Sheriff). That of the best supporting role for Jacques Dufilho. And that of the best photography for Raoul Coutard, the only César of the career of this legend of the direction of photography who will be nominated only once again, in 1983 for Passion by Jean-Luc Godard. Jacques Perrin will win two Césars. As best producer in 1997 for Microcosmos and as best documentary for oceans in 2011. He was also nominated for best first film in 2002 for The migrating people.