Le Papillon


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Julian Larieux (Michel Serrault) is a retired widower. Detached from the rest of humanity, his main interest is his butterfly collection. When nine-year-old Elsa (Claire Bouanich) and her mother move in upstairs, Julian's initial concern is how much noise the youngster is making. Then, when Elsa's mother fails to collect her daughter from school and none of the other neighbours prove willing to help, Julian takes the girl with him on his once-in-a-lifetime excursion to find a rare butterfly, the Isabella, only active for 10 days of the year...

Anyone want to guess where writer/director Phillipe Muyl is going with this? Well, despite Julien's Blackbeard-like butterfly room and mock confession to Elsa that he murdered his seven wives and "burned them all in the coal furnace", or the humorous/disconcerting suggestion of a police officer that "in every collector lurks a psychopath," the destination is crystal clear: Julien and Elsa come to complement one another, despite the old man's initial recalcitrance, fulfilling each other's need for affection and love.

As the grumpy old man, Serrault is predictably effective, while newcomer Bouanich, who reminds one slightly of the Seventies Italian child actress Nicoletta Elmi, does happy, sad, petulant and - above all - cute, as required.

Muyl invests more care with his script and demonstrates a rather restrained, almost old-fashioned, visual style than one might expect from someone who cut his teeth in the image-driven world of advertising and commercials, though elsewhere he betrays his past with enough shots of picturesque Rhone-Alpes scenery to make one think that someone in the regional tourist board must have had an input into the production.

Utterly predictable, yet undeniadably charming, Le Papillon is a straightforward feel-good entry that won't change the history of cinema, but succeeds admirably in its more modest aims.

Reviewed on: 30 Oct 2003
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A grumpy old man and nine-year-old girl become friends during their search for a rare butterfly.
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Director: Phillipe Muyl

Writer: Phillipe Muyl

Starring: Michel Serrault, Claire Bouanish, Nade Dieu, Francoise Michaud, Helene Hilly, Jacques Bouanich, Catherine Cyler, Jerry Lucas

Year: 2002

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: France


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