A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT
Saturday the 6th of January, 1917, five condemned soldiers were escorted to Bouchavesnes at the Front in the Somme.
Watch out for the wire!
The first, once cheerful and adventurous, wore the tag number 2124. He was drafted from the Seine area.
On his feet were boots, taken from a dead German.
Before becoming 2124, he was known as Bastoche and was hooked on a pretty redhead, a certain Véronique Passavant.
He was a carpenter.
Taking a break from his woodwork, they'd go for a beer at Little Louis' bar, in Golden Hand St.
He'd taken his boots from an enemy who no longer needed them.
Stuffed with straw or newspaper, they replaced his old clodhoppers.
He was court-martialed for self-mutilation.
Gunpowder had been found on his wounded hand.
He faced the death sentence.
Watch out for the wire!
The second soldier was tag number 4077, also from near the Seine.
He was a welder for the State Railways, in Bagneux.
His name was Francis Gaignard, nicknamed Six-Sous.
He knew the poor build the canons of their own destruction, but it's the rich who sell them.
He tried to explain it to the troops, but he wasn't a good speaker.
And cheap wine, poverty's best friend, deadened the soldiers' eyes, making it difficult to get through to them.
Number 1 81 8 was surely the bravest and the toughest of them all.
He had once killed a fellow officer...
an officer who kicked the dead.
You lazy cowards!
You! Get up!
You! Get going!
No one ever found out.
Benoît Notre Dame was a farmer from Dordogne.
One August morning, they came to get him at his farm and sent him off on a train.
Watch out for the wire!
The telephone wire is the only link to the land of the living.
A flimsy wire, their only chance for President Poincaré's pardon.
Even if the only one to still believe in it is him. Number 7328, recruited in Corsica.
According to all who'd known him, he was no angel at all.
He was a liar, a cheat, a show-off, a sneak and a troublemaker.
Before all this, Tina Lombardi worked as his whore.
He'd received a 5-year sentence for an affair of either love or honour, depending on who he was talking to. lt was, in fact, a conflict between village pimps.
Summer 1916, common-law criminals were enlisted to beef up regiments melted in the fires at Verdun.
They gave him the choice.
It's been shitting shells round here!
No, it's been rather quiet.
Who are those for?
Well, actually... you'll be attacking tomorrow.
We're getting a head start.
Watch out for the wire!
The fifth was a "Cornflower", the nickname for the class of '17.
He was five months shy of 20.
These days, everything scared him.
French canons short-firing, the wind that heralded the mustard gas attacks, executions to set an example.
He hadn't been like that before, quite the opposite, braving storms as he helped lighthouse keepers.
And then came one shell too many.
There you go... The winning ticket back to your fiancée.
The ticket for a court-martial.
Turn a blind eye, Sarge. He's been through enough.
They could execute him.
Be human for once. Shut up!
The first time Mathilde and Manech made love, he fell asleep, his hand on her breast.
Each time his wound throbs, Manech feels Mathilde's heart in his palm.
Each beat brings her closer to him.
lf Manech were dead, Mathilde would know.
Since the death notice, she stubbornly holds on to her intuition, like to a flimsy wire.
She never gets discouraged.
And Mathilde is of a cheerful disposition. lf that wire doesn't lead her to her lover, never mind... she can always use it as a noose.
ln June 1920, Mathilde received a letter from a nun.
A patient at the Rennes hospital wants to see her.
He'd met Manech in January '17 at the Front in the Somme.
Handsome, wasn't l?
It's a De Dion, with direct drive.
Please, tell me about Manech. ln January '17, I escorted five condemned soldiers.
He was one of them...
Yes. l was to take them to a front-line trench.
Gendarmes were waiting with the prisoners near a bombed-out cemetery.
What are you doing with those German boots?
Poincaré's pardon? You'll wait!
He'll sign it! l shouldn't even have been condemned.
I'm Corsican, not French!
Leave him be.
He's lost it, but that's for the best.
The cold has saved that one.
Gangrene would've got him in summer.
Was he in pain?
They had to cut off two fingers, but he wasn't suffering anymore.
l led them to a trench, called "Bingo Crépuscule".
Couldn't you have lost them on your way?
A kick in the ass to get rid of them!
My orders are to bring you these five.
And l'll tell you my orders! l'm to throw these guys over the top and leave them to die like dogs between our line and the Jerries'!
Those are my damned orders, Sergeant!
You see, Sergeant, with the Jerries, there's a kind of status quo.
It's a little too calm? Let's start the fireworks and watch all hell let loose!
Soup, guys! You're lucky, it's still warm.
Beetroot and fennel.
What can I get for you?
A large hot chocolate and some bread with honey.
I'd kill my parents to get you that!
Do you mind, Lieutenant?
He's an orphan!
He'll get it. Célestin Poux is the "Mess Hall Marauder", the "Kitchen Raider".
Fifteen minutes later, he came back with it all.
Salted Guérande butter, lavender honey, and... cocoa from Nigeria!
Tell me, Cornflower, you've no one to write to? A fiancée?
Her name is Mathilde.
l hear her heart beating, like Morse code.
Luckily, we won't have to wait till the end of the war.
Now I can go straight home after the execution.
Should l spare you the rest? l'm lame, not dim.
We opened the barbed wire and equipped the five against the cold.
Célestin Poux gave up a red woolen glove to protect your fiancé's hand.
Are they far?
Too far for grenades, too near for artillery.
Gas is out of the question. The gasser always gets it!
Think they'll make it?
If they're not blown to bits, they'll starve and freeze.
Either way, it'll amuse the Jerries.
A Corporal gave Bastoche, the carpenter, a hug. lt was Corporal Gordes.
They clearly knew each other before the war.
And then, over they went.
Shit... Shut up.
Shit! Shut up!
1 50 pound weight, easy!
And I wasn't at my best!
But that morning, in January '17, was Manech still alive?
At dawn, Favart called out their names.
Apart from the Dordogne farmer, they all replied.
Yeah, still here!
The Cornflower, hide yourself better.
That's all l know.
l wrote up my report with a heavy heart.
About time, Esperanza! The Brits are replacing us, we're off.
The condemned prisoners' list, signed by Capt. Favourier.
Give it to me.
Don't just stand there like that. This isn't Pompeii!
You've been promoted. You're off to the Vosges.
Even so, Sir, this expedition is going to be hard to swallow.
Where you're going, there's mustard gas and throat lozenges.
The famous Vosges sweets.
A few months later, l was wounded, in the Somme. l ended up in the same ambulance as Chardolot, a corporal from Bingo Crépuscule.
But he only had a few days left to live.
It's me. Esperanza.
Bingo Crépuscule, remember?
Sorry, l don't recognize you.
The five thrown over into no-man's-land, what happened to them?
What do you think?
No one made it.
Your conscience bothering you, Esperanza?
You should've stuck around.
You'd have seen capital Ms, underwear being waved and a flying albatross.
You're delirious with fever!
We sent over five men and recovered five stiffs.
My eyes are gone but I can imagine your expression and l like it.
He really spoke of capital Ms and an albatross?
Here you go, Miss. ln here are the prisoners' belongings I was to return to their families.
My health's prevented it.
That's the letter the Dordogne farmer, Notre Dame, wrote to his wife. l sent the original just after Bingo.
You're here because of the mustard gas?
Not even. Damned Spanish flu!
Death moves in mysterious ways.
If you can't cry, try talking.
lf you can't talk, say nothing.
But sometimes, talking can bring on the tears.
Tears say what you can't say, if you get my drift?
Otherwise, you can just keep that sour-face!
Little Louis, tell Véro l'm thinking of her.
Shame she won't talk to me.
Saw Biscuit, we patched things up.
Adieu, my friend. Bastoche.
"Benoît Notre Dame, number 1 81 8. l won't be writing for a long time."
Tell old Bernay l want to settle up by March.
His manure's too costly, watch out for him.
Tell my Baptistin that l so love that he'll be fine if he listens to his dear mother.
She's the kindest person l know. Love you. Benoît.
"For Tina Lombardi, from Angel Bassignano."
lf Chickpea comes in before dinner's called, Manech is alive.
l'm not hungry.
Mathilde was born the 1st of January, 1900. lt's easy for calculating her age. ln 1903, her parents died in the n° 44 bus accident.
Since then, Mathilde often says to herself, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust! Ashes to ashes, dust to dust..."
Her uncle and aunt, Sylvain and Bénédicte, have raised her, with her parents' life insurance invested by Pierre-Marie Rouvière.
When she was five, Mathilde came down with polio.
She was bedridden for months, despite mustard compresses... pendulums and four-leaf clover infusions.
Today, Mathilde is twenty.
She plays the tuba. lt is the only instrument capable of imitating a distress call.
Chickpea, the dog, farts in his sleep.
When she hears it, Bénédicte never fails to say, Doggie fart, gladdens my heart.
Mathilde needs daily treatment.
Since the Armistice, Georges Cornu, a swimming champion, massages her.
She used to get embarrassed, but she got over it.
Mathilde sometimes imagines that Georges admires her, tormented with desire.
What's more, he once said, You do have a fine figure, Miss.
And I've kneaded quite a few.
After that, how should she call him?
My dear Georges...
Sometimes, before falling asleep, she imagines herself in arousing situations.
Mathilde doesn't need to fantasize for very long before reaching fulfilment.
Since his disappearance, she can't bear to think about her fiancé as she satisfies herself.
That's the way it is...
If I were you, Mathilde, l'd forget him.
Why chase pipe dreams? lf he was alive, you'd have heard from him.
He was taken prisoner.
And stayed with a German girl with braids and big boobs!
A Breton boy eating sauerkraut! lmpossible!
Can l help? Keep your feet on the ground. l stand on my own two feet!
What? Never mind. l heard you anyway.
But your dreams don't stand up.
Manech can't have been taken at Bingo.
Our men took the trench facing it.
Normally, it's the winners who take prisoners.
So he's lost his mind.
Or he's in hiding, to avoid hard labour.
Stop dreaming, Mathilde!
Face up to it.
You'll find a husband, despite...
Something's off-key. l'll find the "Mess Hall Marauder", Célestin Poux.
What can l get for you?
Or the Corsican's whore. She might know more than me.
Tomorrow, l go to Paris.
To find a survivor from Bingo Crépuscule.
Germain Pire, Private Detective The Peerless Pry
I'm used to handling red-hot affairs. l've a cupboard full.
Scandals that would've been brushed under the carpet... brought to light by Pire's prying.
Take this big affair... very delicate. ln '17, a train derails. 425 soldiers on leave, dead.
The enquiry reveals how an officer ordered the departure, despite faulty brakes.
A total cover-up by Poincaré's government.
The victims' families only hope of finding the officer?
The Peerless Pry.
Peerless, Miss. I found their officer, to the military's great displeasure.
Granted, he was dead and buried. l'll just pack my bags and be on my way to track down Poux Célestin and the Corsican's fiancée.
And your fees, Mr. Peerless Pry?
The Pry only bleeds dry sitting ducks, Miss.
For you, I can do...
20 francs a day.
Plus expenses, of course.
Why so kind?
Hélène, come and say hello.
Don't worry about expenses. Germain Pire eats little, doesn't drink and tips sparingly.
Notre Dame de Paris?
Not Notre Dame de Paris! l'm calling from Paris about Notre Dame Benoît!
Benoît Notre Dame!
A strapping, good-hearted farmer.
Died for his country.
I've lost many a parishioner.
Are his wife and Baptistin still there?
Quiet! Miss Minet, I can't hear a thing!
No. She upped and left one day, with no forwarding address. ls that a choir l hear?
Of course, it's a choir! We are in a church, Miss!
But that's no hymn at your end!
Thank you, Father. Goodbye.
I can't make head nor tail of it!
I thought you liked defending lost causes.
Your impertinence was charming at 10, not at 20!
Then start taking me seriously.
You're wasting your money on a grotesque crusade!
Bingo Crépuscule! Why not Yippee doodle-doo?
I want access to army archives.
Let's say there's an ounce of truth in this. lf one man has survived, he risks hard labour!
And you know it!
Your prying would put him in great danger!
Your parents entrusted me...
"Ashes to ashes..."
That's just it.
They entrusted you with my happiness.
Thank you, Pierre-Marie.
Don't be like that, my dear Mathilde.
I'm thinking of your future.
Sorry to see your health's worsened, despite the massages.
I'll see what l can do.
It doesn't only happen in Lourdes!
I'm looking for Tina Lombardi. l knew her when she was little...
Ladies, l'm Tina Lombardi's uncle and l'd like to know...
Excuse me... l look after the Lombardi family's interests and I'm looking for Tina.
She's come into some money.
You're the one looking for Tina Lombardi?
Ever been to Corsica?
Very pretty, very picturesque.
But Tina's walking the street somewhere else.
Luckily, a highly-placed member of the Police picked up her trail in Bar-Le-Duc.
Valentina Emilia Maria Lombardi, aka Tina, was registered in 1916 near the 23rd regiment's camp of Marseilles.
Since the Armistice, the chick has flown the coop!
I've lost her trail, but I've been busy.
She's disappeared into thin air.
So, you're giving up.
Not at all.
Pire never admits defeat. Pire is stubborn.
Pire's peer doesn't exist.
Perfect! Thank you.
Just a little bit.
Not my eyes.
Careful with that!
What can l get you?
This is my fiancé.
And him, the carpenter... l think you know him.
My throat's dry.
"Good glass of wine..." "Keeps the doctor in line."
My great-aunt's motto.
Died in 1911 in Besançon, she was 99.
Never sick a day...
A hyena in the Botanical Gardens.
I was showing off, stroking it.
Bastoche and Biscuit made this.
His best friend. They met in 1910 during the floods, saving a lady's life.
Bastoche was talented but Biscuit... a genius.
A magician with a chisel!
He pegged all the articulations.
This is for you.
"Louis, tell Véro I'm thinking of her.
"Shame she won't talk to me.
"Saw Biscuit, we patched things up.
"Adieu, my friend. Bastoche."
To patch things up means they'd argued. You know why?
They went through hell together, the Marne, the Woëvre, the Somme...
Then one day, and who knows why, they stopped talking.
Biscuit was transferred.
He died in a military hospital bombing.
I'm glad they finally patched things up.
They won't be queuing up outside, today.
Pour me one?
A wooden hand, a heart of gold.
But who was Véro?
Véronique Passavant. His regular, his woman.
They often came in together.
Why would they have argued?
He may have strayed and she wouldn't forgive him.
There you go. '17, this way.
What exactly are the red files?
You need a mandate from someone high up.
Of course, they're upstairs!
Go and help him.
Let's say you were someone high up... then you could give us the mandate. lf l thought like that, l wouldn't be an officer.
Consider yourself lucky you've been allowed in.
It usually takes months. lt looks tidy but it's really a mess.
So, the Somme...
The Bouchavesnes sector, trench 1 08.
What a state...
Look at this. Appalling!
May l help?
Thank you for replying favourably to the General...
We're very good friends.
Bouchavesnes... two friends of mine died there.
Dreadful, the battles in that trench...
Paris wasn't much better.
Couldn't even find a taxi after the opera.
So l heard!
We'd like information on trench 108.
Posting slips, trenches 104, 105.
Trench 107. Where's 106?
How annoying, it's written on both sides!
"Dug by the Germans, taken by us in 1916 and renamed
"Bingo Crépuscule." Why not Yippee doodle-doo?
"January 6th, nothing to report.
"The 7th, heavy combat with losses.
"Killed in action: Capt. Favourier, history teacher.
"Lt Benoît Estrangin, insurance agent.
Certain losses are filed confidential.
Confidential? You mean...
Sorry, we can't look any further.
Not even the General.
Thank you for the time you've taken.
Nothing here of interest. Posting slips, commissary bills.
I assumed as much. lt was to be expected.
You've gone too far!
l do hope this paper wasn't filed secret defence!
You must tell me if it's important. lt's nothing.
Just a leave.
From the President?
President Poincaré sometimes granted a leave to a deserving soldier.
End of story!
I'll see you out.
Corporal Bouquet Kléber...
Corporal Gaignard Francis...
Private Notre Dame Benoît...
Private Bassignano Angel...
Private Langonnet Manech...
For self-mutilation, you are sentenced to death.
lf, before the count of 7, the train hasn't entered the tunnel, or the ticket inspector hasn't come, Manech is dead!
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...
When the newspaper strike is over, we can place your ad.
"Reward for information concerning Bingo Crépuscule."
Encouraging her won't bring back her appetite.
Take her to the Quimper Fair.
A change of scenery.
You might meet a nice boy.
To get married and have children. Tell her!
Can you pour me one?
You drink now?
"Glass of wine keeps the doctor in line."
Where's that from?
Dead-Hand barman with a wooden hand.
His aunt's motto. Died at a hundred, in Besançon, 1911.
In Besançon, in 1911, a 99 year-old lady left behind a wooden-handed nephew, owner of the Dead-Hand bar, in Golden Hand St, to whom she often said what Sylvain just asked me.
She's already drunk!
An albatross is stubborn.
He knows he can outlast the wind.
Hey, my gravel!
Véronique Passavant, 17th of July, 1920. l'm writing from Little Louis' bar. He told me about you. l must tell you about an encounter which left me quite shaken up. l headed for Bastoche's workshop. l was feeling down.
I want to talk to Bastoche.
He died. At the Front in the Somme. Didn't you know? l know something else.
From the hospital, where l care for dying syphilitics, a patient sends you this.
If you don't want to die, covered with oozing sores, answer me!
The comrade hiding with your Bastoche...
Tell me... tell me he's Corsican. l was already traumatized by nuns when l was little!
Tina Lombardi knows something we don't.
The Lombardi girl... she knows something we don't.
That would prove Bastoche had escaped.
With another condemned prisoner.
That hussy obviously thinks it's her Angel.
But if Bastoche had escaped, he'd have looked out for Manech.
If he escaped...
Give me that.
With "ifs", a flea could carry an elephant.
But without "ifs", might as well hang myself.
Thanks to you, l spend my time picking gravel out of the lawn!
When I see gravel, I make it a point of arriving in style.
For the Miss.
Leprince Hardware, Paris, 25th of July, 1920.
Sunday lends itself to writing. l'm replying regarding Célestin Poux and other survivors from Bingo Crépuscule. l knew the fellow. The smartest thief l ever met.
Thanks to him, l never went without!
Olivier Nergeton, Animated Toys.
Célestin Poux was our salvation, aka the Mess Hall Marauder or Justa Bit More.
He falsified losses, making up numbers to give double rations. lf you should see him, tell him we'll never forget him.
Etienne Morillon, teacher, 3rd of August, 1920.
He always had us laughing.
He had even trained the company's mascot for us!
Good morning. What weather!
Germain Pire, private detective.
Mathilde has spoken of you.
Tell Mathilde to come down.
That Mr. Pry is here to see her.
Poux's been hopping around.
Two days in Dreux, then Troyes, Castre, five days in Sète.
It'll take luck and patience to land him.
Hélène, some savoury biscuits.
Tell me what you think.
The kitchen's more comfortable.
Thank you, Bénédicte.
l'll leave you.
Poux can't stay in one place, whereas Tina Lombardi... she's got us running in circles.
I know. And she's the queen of disguise.
Anything new on Biscuit?
That's Benjamin Gordes.
The day he won the Carpentry Prize for the sixth consecutive year.
Biscuit, Bastoche's best friend, is none other than Benjamin Gordes.
A soldier from their company said they were like brothers before it went sour.
Why won't you tell me? Stop it!
Tell me! l don't want to fight you, so stop it!
Why won't you talk?
Whose idea was it?
Mine? No, it was your idea!
lt was his idea!
All because of a woman!
Véronique Passavant finished with Bastoche in June '16.
And just after, he fought like a mad dog with Benjamin Gordes.
Don't need to be Pythagoras!
They didn't meet again before Bingo Crépuscule?
Where it all ended!
No, where it all begins, Mr. Pire.
Where it all begins...
Tina Lombardi is sure Bastoche is alive.
What made him different from the others that evening?
He was the only carpenter?
Something made Bastoche different from the others.
His German boots!
He was the only one with German boots!
Of course. You're right!
Tina Lombardi's discovered that a man with German boots survived! l bet he was seen with a comrade!
I saw two soldiers who looked like tramps.
One wore boots taken from a Jerry.
He was holding up the other.
We also know Bastoche had patched things up with his best friend!
Did it change the course of events that night? lf l don't break the peel, Gordes managed to save Bastoche and Manech.
I'm never going to get that pie in the oven!
I must go back to Paris.
Again? That money's going up in smoke.
"Ashes to ashes..."
Excuse me, Elodie Gordes?
Over there, selling carrots.
Never seen him!
Which one don't you know?
Him, by any chance?
Why did Bastoche and Biscuit argue? Was it over you?
I have nothing to say! l want to know! Leave me alone!
They last met at Bingo Crépuscule.
My fiancé was also there. With Bastoche. ln that shithole of a trench! l want to understand.
l want to understand!
lt's not what you think.
I can't talk about it. Give me your address.
My spelling's terrible but I'll explain it all in a letter. l promise.
Go ahead! My gravel!
Nothing for me?
Nothing for me?
Just the newspaper.
They talk about everything except Elodie Gordes.
You should read it, one can learn things!
Has the President opened an inquest on Bingo Crépuscule?
He might have done, if he hadn't fallen from a train in his pyjamas.
Well, he wears pyjamas!
He wears pyjamas!
We recovered five stiffs.
We knew you were a thief. But a pyromaniac?
All for me?
No. Just this one. lf l'm not picking up gravel, l'm picking up the postman!
The gravel's gone? A fair fight.
Fighting is never fair.
Can l offer you a short one? Won't say no.
Miss, l beg you to keep my secret to yourself.
When l met my husband, he already had four children.
None were his.
Out of kindness, he'd married a widow with TB.
She was Polish, like me.
He adopted her children before her death. l was also an unmarried mother.
He then found himself the father of five, though he couldn't have any of his own.
You're going to run me over!
We had four years of tenderness.
We had plans.
We dreamt of seeing the sea together.
Then the war came. l thought Bastoche would take care of him, their being posted together.
But during his leave, in September, 1915, just after the battle of Artois, l knew nothing would ever be the same.
Over there, it's all we have to keep going.
Once, in a burning field, I saw some comrades...
Their cartridge belts exploded like fireworks.
Once, we even had to use the body of a friend as a shield.
There had been something on his mind.
He came out with it on the second night.
If I desert, the gendarmes will come and get me.
My only way out is to have a sixth child.
If you have six children, they send you home.
As l said, he couldn't have children. l didn't dare think what was on his mind, but he just wouldn't let it go.
It's not betrayal if I'm asking you.
Especially if it's with Bastoche.
The five aren't mine, so why not a sixth?
You'd have nine months to wait. The war will be over by then. lt will never be over. Never!
They'd be nine months of hope. Have you no heart?
And then one day, l found a note from Kléber Bouquet, known as Bastoche, saying to tie a coloured cloth at the window if he wasn't to come up.
I'd love some!
After you. Please.
No, thank you.
lt's mother of pearl?
Yes, Benjamin made it.
lt's odd... How strange we never met.
The children aren't here?
Yes, but... they're playing outside.
A pick-me-up? Please.
No, no... Sorry. l don't fancy one.
Neither do I.
Elodie, we'll say we've done it.
It'll calm him down.
It will make things easier for you, for me... for everybody.
Funny how your smile opens the parentheses.
l'll close them as late as possible... ln two days, at the train station.
Come on... give me one last smile.
To close the parentheses. l didn't even get pregnant!
But soon, fear no longer tormented my husband. lt was jealousy.
"Where? When? Often? Which positions?"
"Did you enjoy it?" lt became a living hell for both of us.
Now, Bastoche is dead, as you know, and my husband was killed in a hospital bombing. lt's a relief to confide in you. At times, l think l'm going mad.
Matti! Hurry up.
Mr. Rouvière is on the phone. He's waiting.
Mathilde? Pierre-Marie here. l have some bad news.
Not really bad... News you're already supposed to know.
But news you can no longer ignore.
You were right about one thing...
Manech and his four comrades were in that absurdly named trench.
They were buried in the Herdelin cemetery, after being temporarily buried under a tarpaulin in a bomb crater.
That's that, my dear Mathilde.
ln June, 1909, Mathilde is 9 years old.
Manech Langonnet is 10.
Does it hurt when you walk? lt's Friday, or Saturday...
Mathilde can't remember.
Do you have any friends? l can be your friend.
Do I stink of fish?
Ever been to the top of the lighthouse? l can carry you to the top of the stairs.
Because my dad's the keeper!
Be stuck-up then! Church mouse! Country bumpkin!
Do you want a kick in the pants?
Can you see far from the top?
I'm going to gobble up your ears!
l'll throw you in the dungeon!
l am the squid's servant!
Doggie fart, gladdens my heart!
Manech's Marrying Mathilde!
Mathilde's Marrying Manech!
l don't smoke. l know, but take it...
lt'll help you make new friends.
lf l reach the bend before the car, Manech will come back alive!
lf l reach the bend...
lf l reach the bend before the car...
Manech will come back alive...
lf l reach the bend...
You used to brag about being one year older than me.
Now l'm older than you.
The man who gave you his glove is called Poux.
Funny, isn't it?
The man l hired to find him is Pire.
Strange name, too.
Either way, he hasn't found him. Nor the Corsican's whore.
The wire's snapped, Manech, but I'm not giving up.
l still believe that Tina Lombardi's a lead.
I need to be sure.
You understand, right?
That's why I must find Célestin Poux.
You can be really annoying, you know.
We would be so much better in Brittany.
Let's go, Mathilde.
You'll catch cold.
What do you want?
Who are you?
Was it you who phoned?
Who are you?
The days go by. Still no news of Célestin Poux.
Mathilde's sadness is overwhelming.
She must eat. She's making herself ill.
Leave her the marrowbone.
Her sadness is beginning to rub off on us.
And so, in the middle of the night on the 1 5th of September, 1920, the wire is re-tied.
"Victory! I've finally found the roaming Poux.
"Sent by the grace of God and Davidson motors.
"All expenses paid, of course. Germain Pire."
Célestin Poux, Terror of the Tarmac!
The ad was yours?
Mathilde tightly clasps her hands, to keep from shaking and crying and making a fool of herself.
I didn't actually see your fiancé get hit. l went to get the stew and ran into Lebègue, a guy l met in the Vosges.
A native of the Meuse. Or rather a naïve of the Meuse.
Even so, he could tell good coffee from a stomach remedy. l know. I tried to sell him a mixture of coffee and charcoal in exchange for some Dutch tobacco.
So, the last time you saw Manech, he was alive?
You couldn't miss him.
Carving Ms on a burnt tree trunk, smack in the middle of no-man's-land.
He carved three Ms before the albatross got him.
"Great sweeping sea bird, "indolent traveling companion, "gliding with ships
"upon bitter deep." lt's a poem by Baudelaire. lt was also a Jerry bomber.
The machine gun was at the rear.
We couldn't shoot yet through the propeller.
It was you who gave him the glove?
A thick woolen red one.
My fiancée spent her time knitting scarves and mittens for me. l traded them with frostbitten Senegalese in exchange for Germans' gold teeth. l melted them down after the Armistice.
They paid for my Harley.
But... are you sure Manech's dead?
A comrade told me, with a wound like that... he didn't stand a chance.
I only saw three of them get killed with my own eyes.
Don't shoot! l beg you! l surrender!
Let me through!
I'm on your side!
l'm not French, I'm Corsican! l've nothing against you!
So, he's not French!
Let's cancel his birth certificate.
A French corporal dealt with him...
Thouvenel. A trigger-happy swine!
He had a heart made of stone, but a sharp eye.
Poor bastard! l guess you like it.
I'd kill my parents for a good stew!
Don't worry, he's an orphan.
The same goes for truffles. lf you like truffles, I have one from Périgord...
Which ones did you see die?
The one with gangrene.
Yes, the welder.
I have a final request.
I want to piss standing up.
Like a man!
And then, you can fire away to your heart's content!
So long to life, so long to love So long to all those women lt's all over Done forever This shameful war At Craonne, on the plateau That's where we'll leave our skins For we've all been sentenced We are the sacrificed
He was so well hidden, we couldn't locate him.
Even at dawn, when he answered roll call, no one knew where he was. A ventriloquist!
No, he was a carpenter.
He was shot down by the Albatross, along with your fiancé.
The Albatross caught fire and crashed on the enemy line.
Return to sender.
What about the Dordogne farmer?
He played dead from the beginning. Not that it saved him.
The Jerries didn't appreciate the grenade.
Don't look! lt'll only make it worse.
When l got back with the stew, bullets were flying everywhere.
Heavy shelling had begun.
Damn! No one can imagine what it's like.
Can't move your legs, your heart beats like a scared animal.
Then l saw the Dordogne farmer shatter into pieces.
Attack, before we're all slaughtered.
All that was nothing compared to what followed.
We'd passed the five prisoners bodies when the Jerry machine guns started spitting bullets.
We were wiped out!
That Lavrouye bastard! He kept the paper to himself.
That's all he said.
That evening, there was enough food to feed an army.
Favart and Chardolot were counting losses.
Why do those five show up on our battalion list?
We're only following orders.
Something stinks here.
Something stinks? Lavrouye stinks.
This food doesn't. Dig in before it gets cold.
So you only saw three of them get killed.
With your own eyes.
False hope will only make you suffer.
They're not false!
You'll taste my cake? l don't know if I should.
With a bit of fresh cream.
If you insist... l like people who appreciate my food.
I'll put her to bed.
Let's all get some sleep.
You lack control, no style...
You're better at raking than skidding!
Hey, Postman! l'll drop you off at the next letterbox.
And my bike?
Leave it to me. I fought in the war! I don't have a desk job.
It's not my fault. I'm asthmatic!
An asthmatic who rides a bike!
By the sea. Sure, by the sea!
Célestin, it's not a sidecar.
Those men, they never grow up...
As long as they don't play soldiers.
"Tell old Bernay... settle up by March. His manure's too costly..."
He wouldn't write such trivialities. Don't you agree?
There must be a code.
Except lovers' codes can't be cracked with brains or divine intervention.
And Bastoche? lf he was seen with his German boots, he must have survived.
Not so, Miss.
Gordes didn't let him go over the top with those boots.
If the Jerries see these, they'll know you've stripped one of their dead.
So Tina Lombardi's on the wrong track.
The one with the boots wasn't Bastoche.
It was Gordes!
That's right, Miss!
He was with a boy, from the class of '17... Desrochelles. l'd met some stretcher-bearers who'd just passed them.
Are you from Bingo?
Tell them Gordes is wounded.
He's with a boy who's worse off. Desrochelles.
They're off to first-aid. With German boots!
Long Live Anarchy!
What's happened, Matti?
What did l say?
What did you do? Nothing.
You've known he's dead for three years. l call that stubbornness.
No, l call that hope.
Poux has just killed it.
lf l can do anything...
Take me to Bingo Crépuscule.
An lndian princess on her elephant.
With her hunters, on the Trail of Sorrow.
It was there!
At a hundred yards, facing Bingo, was Erlangen, the Jerry trench.
Where's the burnt tree trunk?
All the stumps and debris were used to fill in the trenches.
We found the five over there, under a tarpaulin, covered with earth.
Not a pretty sight. No doubt!
The youngest was only a boy.
Was he wearing a glove?
A red, woolen glove?
They all had one bandaged hand, but... nothing on the other. I can't remember seeing a glove.
I don't like him digging like that.
Around here, you never know what junk you might come across, that can blow off an arm or a leg.
It's the crypt!
There was a chapel between the two trenches. lt was in ruins.
Incredible. l don't recognize a thing.
Could Manech have lost the glove as he fell?
It was tightly knitted and tightly fitted.
I used the other one in the kitchens until the end of the war.
Maybe he took it off to carve?
I couldn't say.
But I don't think so.
What sort of red was it? Bright red?
A flashy red.
With white dots. Looked like maggots on an apple!
Sorry to disturb you like this.
My husband's family suffered greatly in the war.
I didn't want to go over to a French soldier's table in front of him.
What can you tell me?
Before dying, my brother Gunther saw your fiancé carve those three letters on a tree.
He was wearing a red, spotted glove.
A comrade of Gunther's told me the story.
When our plane shot down your fiancé, they were sick to the stomach.
After that, it was a nightmare.
God spared that French soldier twice.
Then... your side attacked.
They killed my brother.
He was 23 years old.
I came to see his cross at the cemetery.
Time heals all. You'll see.
I'll get back, he'll be getting worried.
Seems l haven't killed it.
Tina Lombardi. She's going to the guillotine!
They call her the "Officer Killer".
She's killed Lavrouye and Thouvenel.
And planned to kill Maréchal Pétain.
When I think you sat in a wheelchair to soften me up!
I'll talk only to you, because I know we're very similar.
We'll leave them alone.
What I did, you could've done, too. l don't think so.
I'd be too scared.
I'm not scared.
And l regret nothing.
Except my hair.
I'll be treated to a bowl-cut before the execution.
I'll look like Joan of Arc when I see my Angel!
Why did you want to kill Pétain?
Throwing mutilated soldiers over the top was his idea.
Why not Poincaré?
He refused them a pardon.
You don't know?
He did pardon them. All five! lt's just a leave.
Lavrouye kept the paper for himself.
Why did that dog Lavrouye do that?
Because dirty dogs play dirty. That's all.
Trust me on this. l took care of him!
You and I have been running the same investigation.
Each in our own way.
Looking for survivors from Bingo, I picked up a male nurse who'd treated Angel and the others.
This guy, Phillipot, was sure he'd seen one of them.
A big man, with a head wound.
He was a big man. Head wound, German boots...
He wore German boots and was carrying a thin-built soldier. l think that's about right. l'm even sure of it.
A big man, head wound...
His superior told him to keep his mouth shut.
You can imagine how overwhelmed with hope l was.
And then, l met the man who shattered my dreams.
Chief Sergeant Favart.
He told me how that pig Thouvenel had shot my Angel, just like that!
Like taking a leak.
l took care of him, too!
lt was an obsession.
Kill all those who hurt my man.
Your Angel left you this.
"Vengeance is pointless. Try to be happy, "and don't ruin your life for me.
"Your Angel from Hell."
Departure for Paris, Platform 2.
Gordes, the one who switched boots with Bastoche... was he big?
Biscuit? He was no athlete. Just a guy like you or me.
And you have no news of Desrochelles?
He didn't make friends easily. He lived alone with his mother. l must go. I'm boarding in an hour for Venezuela.
Good luck, Célestin!
To you too!
When I think you hid Poincaré's pardon! l didn't want to throw salt on the wound.
I'd like one last favour.
I suppose it concerns Bingo-thingy?
Son of bookseller, Desrochelles Paul, born in Sarreguemines, died in February, 1897...
That's it, Desrochelles Jean!
In the Charentes.
Tell me, Mr. Pire, Tina Lombardi... You had an inkling of what she was up to.
Luckily, your paths didn't cross.
He who pries, flies, when danger lurks.
He who pries, pries, but, from a distance.
I've a new lead for you.
Jean Desrochelles. Evacuated from the Front on the 7th of January '17.
His only next of kin was his mother, the widow Desrochelles.
She lives at 22 rue de l'Abbaye. Saintes, in the Charentes.
All the work's been done!
You've tried to reach me?
My brother's comrade, the one l told you about...
He remembered something that might interest you.
The two French soldiers escorting him that morning, wanted to go back through no-man's-land.
They saw the prisoners' bodies.
One was in a kind of small cellar.
The French soldiers seemed surprised.
I don't know if that can help you.
"Tell old Bernay l want to settle up by March.
"His manure's too costly, watch out for him."
"His manure's too costly..."
There must be a code.
Your Mr. Pry called!
He's run into a dead-end in Saintes.
Hello! Go ahead.
Yes, Miss. I remember you.
Old Bernay? No, never heard of him.
Benoît Notre Dame used the manure from his animals.
He never bought it!
Thank you, Father. l must decode this letter.
I think we're getting hot.
Will be - Bernay - March Sell - Everything Say - Nothing Listen - No one Benoît
Excuse me, the "End of the World" farm?
The last house at the end of the road.
And if he doesn't come?
He'll come, don't worry.
Come back in two hours.
It's dangerous to want to bring back the dead.
When l saw your ad in the paper, l knew, in time, the gendarmes would come.
Don't worry. l had the chance to do away with you... l let it go.
We knew you were a thief. But a pyromaniac?
I couldn't kill you.
Now, even the rabbits and chickens, my wife has to do it.
The war's taken it out of me.
You know what l want to hear.
Is he alive?
The last time l saw him, he wasn't doing well.
But he's stronger than he looks.
Don't stay together.
When things calmed down, I tried to get some sleep.
Gaignard! You think we're at the whorehouse?
Bouquet! What now?
Then the pimp tried to surrender.
And the welder from Paris was killed.
Your fiancé started carving on the tree.
Then, the Jerries' Albatross arrived.
l came to, when the ground started shaking.
I don't know what happened. l just saw that trapdoor the shell had half-opened.
They entered no-man's-land. At the second German line, the machine guns got them. A few hours later, a voice woke me.
My God! Bastoche is dead!
We can't leave him here.
We'll come back. He's not going anywhere.
Bastoche is dead.
Look, this one's still moving.
It's the Cornflower. He's a goner as well.
A shell had ripped the door off.
One of the guys arrived, in bad shape.
Bastoche is dead!
We're all going to die. l recognized Bastoche's friend.
The one who'd taken his German boots.
After eating, l smoked his tobacco.
Then, l heard more voices.
Let's go look over there.
lt's not the Cornflower.
What's he doing in there?
Where's the Dordogne farmer?
l'm cold. Don't worry.
He was really messed up, but your fiancé wanted to live. I saw it in his eyes.
l put him on my shoulders and set off through the trench.
He was burning with fever. l felt the heat on my back.
And he was delirious.
Spoke of a heart beating in his hand.
Only 500 yards to the hospital.
Want us to put your friend on the stretcher?
No, thanks. lf you see any officers from Bingo, tell them Corporal Gordes has gone to the hospital with Desrochelles.
Have it your way! l arrived just before the explosion.
Headquarters had the good idea of setting up hospital in a hangar containing a hydrogen-packed zeppelin.
The Cornflower has just been evacuated.
Will he make it?
His hip wound isn't too bad. But he has a severe case of pneumonia.
You're both registered according to your tag numbers.
I don't want to know anything else. But good luck anyway!
Block the pulley!
After that, l walked to Bernay. l had no idea if my wife had received my letter, so each day l waited for her at the bus-stop.
With the money from the sale, we bought a farm here.
The most isolated one we could find.
They call it "The End of the World".
You shot a hole right through your lifeline.
I died. At Bingo Crépuscule, like your fiancé.
If ever you find Jean Desrochelles alive somewhere, let me know.
You know where to find me.
Make yourself at home!
At Christmas, come down the chimney!
For Miss Mathilde. l'll give it to her later. lf l were you...
I would wake her up.
What is it?
"Stay where you are, Mathilde.
"Just stay where you are.
"I'm on my way.
How silly l am!
Peerless on the prowl, faster than a whippet!
He's well and truly alive, but he's lost his memory!
Total amnesia. He even had to learn to read and write again.
The psychiatrists treating him since '17 aren't hopeful.
But who knows?
There are as many amnesias as amnesiacs.
Where is he? ln Milly-la-Forêt.
Orphaned for the second time. He's just lost his adopted mother.
Pierre-Marie, do you know Mr. Pire?
Mathilde, I'll believe it when l see it.
"With my own eyes!"
When Jean Desrochelles was born, his mother was 40, and had no other children.
When the gendarmes took him...
To replenish the troops in Ardennes.
She became depressed.
One day, a comrade of her son visited her...
Unfortunately, it was Jean.
A shell had got him. He'd already been dead for a few hours. l should also tell you...
Maybe the youngest prisoner has taken Jean's identity...
exchanging tag numbers.
She went off her rocker the day the hospital rang her, asking to come to her son's bedside.
He's sleeping. l'll leave you.
Who are you?
Your mother, my darling. l'm your mother. l ran my own little investigation.
Mrs. Desrochelles died two months ago.
Run over by a truck after a fight with a shopkeeper.
And l'm not guessing!
It's in the report. We already knew that.
Don't get upset.
Mrs. Desrochelles didn't suffer, she died straight away.
It's not that.
I feel so guilty! l didn't believe you, my dear Mathilde! l should have known! l'm so sorry.
ln what she would refer to as her "Milly Expedition", the sun, the sky and nature are with her.
As a true lady, she made every effort to look her best.
Dressed in white for freshness, lipstick for the occasion, eyebrows shaped.
But none of that black which lengthens the eyelashes.
She knows that tears can make a mess of it.
He knows about your visit.
We said a young girl he'd dearly loved was coming here.
He asked your name and found it very beautiful.
He's in the garden. He's waiting for you.
Does it hurt when you walk?
Want to see what I'm doing?
l'll show you later, when it's finished.
But why are you crying?
Mathilde leans back against her chair, folds her hands in her lap and looks at him. ln the sweetness of the air, in the light of the garden, Mathilde looks at him.
She looks at him...
Subtitling: Vdm - Paris