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Coup de torchon (1981)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Crime, Drama | 4 November 1981 (France)
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1938, in a French african colony. Lucien Cordier is the cop of this village, populated with blacks and a few whites (usually racialist and lustful). He is a washout, everyone (including his... See full summary »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Huguette Cordier
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Nono - l'amant demeuré d'Huguette
Guy Marchand ...
Irène Skobline ...
Anne - la nouvelle institutrice
Michel Beaune ...
Vanderbrouck - un nouveau riche arrogant
Jean Champion ...
Victor Garrivier ...
Mercaillou
Gérard Hernandez ...
Abdoulaye Diop ...
Fête Nat - le serviteur noir de Lucien
Daniel Langlet ...
Paulo - un flic larvaire
François Perrot ...
Raymond Hermantier ...
L'aveugle
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Storyline

1938, in a French african colony. Lucien Cordier is the cop of this village, populated with blacks and a few whites (usually racialist and lustful). He is a washout, everyone (including his wife Huguette) humiliates him. He never arrests anyone and looks at elsewhere when a dirty trick occurs. But one day, he turns into a machiavellian exterminating angel. Written by Yepok

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Genres:

Comedy | Crime | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

4 November 1981 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Coup de torchon  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Tavernier has said about "Coup de Torchon," "It's about revenge, of course, but it's about something else as well. It's about God and free will, and it has a lot of religious and metaphysical implications, some of which Jean Aurenche and I invented, and some of which are in the book." See more »

Goofs

When Marcel is playing billiards, he continues his turn even though he has not scored. See more »

Quotes

Lucien Cordier: I do things without thinking. Later I understand. I never plan ahead.
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the opening credits, we are correctly informed that the film is based on the novel "Pop. 1280"; but during the end titles, we are informed that it is based on "Pop. 1275". This is consistent with the official title retained for the translation into French, which is "1275 Ames" (literally: "1275 Souls"), and which reflects the fact that 5 people have died during the course of action. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Girare Coup de torchon (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

 
very oddly humorous and cold at the same time, and a curiously moving, low-key performance
30 May 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Lucien Cordier is not like most cops. He's a main chief in a West African village where white people are the minority though, in 1938, are as racist and sexist as can be. He's also not a very good cop, as he barely ever arrests anyone and his authority can be challenged pretty quickly, even by two scummy pimps. He's like the pushover kid in a playground who may be a nice guy, but he's also not quite strong enough to actually attain the authority needed to stand up against the bullies. That is until Lucien decides to fight back, in a manner that is at a calm extreme; an oxymoron, perhaps, but watching Lucien is an oxymoron in human form, but a fascinating one. He'll kill someone, anyone, he thinks of as an enemy to him, shooting a man in the back, the pimps, or even the man who helps him dig a grave. He calmly explains some of the whys, but he never goes too ballistic. Lucien is a man of principles, but to say exactly what or why is a mystery.

This is what makes Coup de tochon, or Clean Slate, based on the Jim Thompson novel Pop 1280 (mentioned in passing as Pop. 1275 for no good reason at one point in the film), is about this man who is warm, lustful, proud, and perhaps a not entirely bright but not stupid either. And as played by Philippe Noiret he makes this film compulsively watchable. The supporting cast, such as Isabelle Hupert and Jean-Pierre Marielle, don't fare too badly either, but it's Noiret that elevates this to something more than director Bertrand Tavernier could have expected. He gives a performance that is intense without ever being over the top, and thoughtful while seemingly aloof in some points. He makes Lucien a guy we might like to know or talk to for a little while, until we see the veneer peel away, a fragile man who has been pushed around by his bosses and his wife (Stephan Audran) and in a position with such little power that the only way to bust loose is senseless killing. As he says, "Would a man with these eyes be a killer?"

Tavernier's direction is lax and smooth, jagged with some documentary style and realism (it was shot all on location, and it looks it always), but there's also a distance I felt to many of the scenes, a deliberate attempt to strip down film-noir elements to light absurdism mixed with sardonic tragedy. There are some great moments, don't get me wrong: the scene with the film screened for the village people at night that gets ruined by a windstorm as the audio keeps playing on with the film cut off and people scrambling for cover; the first killing scene of the pimps where Lucien becomes a larger threat with every passing second leading up to a predictable but still shocking climax; an ending, which I won't mention here.

It has such moments, but I wasn't very moved by Coup de torchon throughout, and it's not directed with the surest hand. And yet, I have to give it to Philippe Noiret: in any other film noir he'd be out of place, and yet here, he's perfect.


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