Le Crabe-Tambour

Directed by Pierre Schoendoerffer

120 minutes / Color
French / English subtitles
Release: 2021
Copyright: 1977

film poster

“Don’t thank or apologize to a superior. It is one of our privileges.” -- The Captain

A French naval frigate crosses the Atlantic, bringing supplies and medical care to the French fishing fleet off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. On board are three veteran officers whose lives are interlinked with the legendary Lt. Willsdorf (Jacques Perrin). Willsdorf served in Indochina and Algeria and now helms a trawler fishing one of the harshest environments on the planet.

Through flashbacks, the frigate’s dying captain (Jean Rochefort), ship’s doctor (Claude Rich), and chief engineer (Jacques Dufilho), tell the story of the larger-than-life Willsdorf: a soldier who fought for a dying empire on two continents, tried to navigate from Vietnam to France on a rotting sailboat, survived captivity as a POW, and was eventually sentenced to prison for his role in a failed putsch aimed at keeping Algeria French.

Featuring some of the greatest maritime footage ever shot, LE CRABE-TAMBOUR is a layered and powerful adventure exploring ideas of honor, duty, and colonialism and its aftermath. Directed by Oscar-winner Pierre Schoendoerffer, and based on his novel of the same name, the film is something of a sequel to Schoendoerffer’s equally masterful THE 317th PLATOON, which featured Lt. Willsdorf’s brother as one of its main characters.

“Pierre Schoendoerffer's 1977 French film based on his own French novel, is one of the grandest, most beautiful adventure movies in years. —The New York Times

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A film by Pierre Schoendoerffer

Select Accolades

  • Best Actor, César Awards 1977
  • Best Supporting Actor, César Awards 1977
  • Best Cinematography, César Awards 1977


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