One of the great prison films, Papillon is based on the autobiography of French convict Henri Charrière, whose titular nickname was derived from his tattoo of a butterfly. Portrayed here by Steve McQueen, Charrière, although guilty of being a safecracker, is wrongly convicted of murder and sent to a penal colony in French Guiana, where he meets fellow inmate Louis Dega (Hoffman).
The two form an alliance of convenience before eventually becoming friends, and make a number of attempts to escape. Although McQueen is undoubtedly the film’s star, Hoffman shines as the gentle intellectual who believes he will one day be free.
(Notes by Kevin Coyne.)
Screening as part of our Dustin Hoffman Retrospective – June 10th-25th.