Captain Conan

Captain Conan (original title: Capitaine Conan) is a 1996 French drama film directed by Bertrand Tavernier. It is based on the 1934 Prix Goncourt-winning novel Captain Conan (Fr. Capitaine Conan) by Roger Vercel.[2]

Captain Conan
Film poster
Directed byBertrand Tavernier
Produced byYvon Crenn
Written by
  • Jean Cosmos
  • Bertrand Tavernier
Music byOswald d'Andréa
CinematographyAlain Choquart
Edited by
  • Luce Grunenwaldt
  • Laure Blancherie
  • Khadicha Bariha-Simsolo
Distributed byBAC Films
Release date
  • 16 October 1996 (1996-10-16)
Running time
130 minutes
Budget$10 million
Box office$4.4 million[1]


In the French infantry on the Macedonian Front during the First World War, Conan, an officer of the elite Chasseurs Alpins, is the charismatic leader of a special squad, many from military prisons, who raid enemy lines at night taking no prisoners. Despising career soldiers, his only friend is the young academic Norbert.

When the Armistice with Bulgaria is signed in September 1918, his unit is sent to Bucharest, capital of France's ally Romania, as part of the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. Neither fighting nor demobilised, morale plummets and courts-martial begin.[3] After a successful defence, Norbert is coerced into becoming the prosecutor by the threat that, if he does not, Conan will be charged. In a brutal raid on a crowded nightclub, some of Conan's men seized the takings, crippling a female singer and killing the female cashier. With the help of the Romanian police and a French prostitute, Norbert finds the men but gets them light sentences.

A widow arrives from France looking for her son, who she finds awaiting trial for desertion. After listening to her story, Norbert thinks that the boy may be blameless and that his officer is out to get him shot. Conan, who hates the officer, agrees and takes Norbert over the old front line where the boy got lost in action. Both become convinced of his innocence.[4]

Fighting breaks out again when the French move up to the Danube and come under attack from the Red Army. During the action, Conan empties the prison and leads his men to one final victory. In a sombre coda, years later back in France, Norbert visits Conan to find him no longer the dashing hero but the sick owner of a little shop.



The film has two out of three fresh reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, even though there are more reviews listed.[5]

Janet Maslin, of The New York Times, said that Mr. Torreton powerfully embodies the film's central questions of what a fighter becomes without combat and where the values inherent in savage battle may lead.[6] Ken Fox, of TV Guide, said beautiful as it is brutal and that it is one of the best war films of recent years.[7] Alex Albanese, of Box Office, said that the film is finely wrought—as hard, precise and heartbreaking as its title character.[8]

Awards and nominations

Bertrand Tavernier won the César Award for Best Director and Phillippe Torreton won the César Award for Best Actor.[9] The film was also nominated for six other César Awards including Best Film, Best Writing and Most Promising Actor. The film was nominated for Film Presented at the Telluride Film Festival.[10]

DVD release

The DVD is in French with English subtitles, widescreen, and has a 2.0-channel PCM audio mix. The only special feature on the DVD is Un Film Sur Bertrand Tavernier, a fifty-four-minute documentary about the making of the film. The release date of the DVD was December 19, 2000.[11]


  2. Purseigle, Pierre (2008). "A very French debate: the 1914-1918 'war culture'". Journal of War & Culture Studies. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  3. Murray, Noel (1998-11-30). "Capitaine Conan". Nashville Scene. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  4. Thomas, Kevin (1997-10-10). "Capitaine Conan". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
  5. "Capitaine Conan (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  6. Maslin, Janet (1997-09-10). "Captain Conan (1996)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  7. Fox, Ken. "Capitaine Conan: Review". TV Guide. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  8. Albanese, Alex (2008-08-01). "Capitaine Conan". Box Office Magazine. Archived from the original on 2010-02-05. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  9. Neff, Renfreu. "CAPITAINE CONAN". Film Journal. Archived from the original on 2013-01-23. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  10. "Capitaine Conan Awards". Moviefone. Archived from the original on 2012-03-07. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  11. Heaton, Dan. "Capitaine Conan". AllMovie. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
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