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Coup de torchon
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Coup de torchon More at IMDbPro »

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31 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

A Great Film

Author: mojoan from United States
13 February 2005

This is one of my favorite films. After all these years, it holds up beautifully. It's surreal, funny, tragic, strange, and somehow all holds together.

Noiret is wonderful, and a great foil for Huppert, with his hang-dog looks and understated acting. Although he plays a policeman, Noiret's character makes his own decisions about justice without the need for pesky government interference.

Isabelle Huppert and Stephane Audran are also perfect in their roles.

The cinematography is superb, with beautiful shots of Africa.

It's hard to categorize this movie, but Coup de Torchon is a must see! I think I've seen it 4 times.

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30 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

A mirror of human nature.

Author: Kaa Haa ( from Antwerp, Belgium
26 September 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This very intelligent-made film is not what it seems. Many viewers can't seem to overcome the so called change after 20 minutes or so. It is clear that Lucien Cordier (Philippe Noiret) is very well aware of who and what he is -from the beginning of the film. The mere fact that he acts in function of his later deeds, makes this film not a "real time" story, but something of a far more mythological nature. He is destiny, in a biblical sense of the word. The crimes he commits are what his victimes deserve. As in many European films, they tell you not just the story, but an Idea behind it. In my opinion, he is some sort of a Jesus, but with all to human deficits. He uses human means to act as a God, in order to make us aware of our own deeds. Everyone he kills think they can get away with their "sins". His deeds are revolting, -but that is the whole point: he is us, used by the director who holds nothing but a mirror in front of human nature. The lack of his morality, is a nothing else than a clue for Taverniers view on humanity. Typically a great film, that should be viewed more than once!

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26 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

A film noir in pastel

Author: Souscolline from United States
20 February 2005

Bertrand Tavernier has taken the novel "TOP 1280" by Jim Thompson set in North Carolina and produced a riveting French film noir set in Senegal in 1938. At that time it was a French colony that exhibited similar social and racial patterns as in the American South. The use of color and humor add a new dimension to the genre. Tavernier in his comments about the film on the DVD talks about the change in the light in the late afternoon in west Africa. It becomes less intense so he uses pastel colors. Note the light blue walls and the pink shirt of Philippe Noiret who is superb as the village policeman Cordier. Isabelle Huppert who plays the mistress of Cordier with intensity and humor and the other actors make this a must see film. There is much humor in the film but be aware that there are many violent scenes. This is French film noir at it's best.

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20 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Brutal, darkly humorous and brilliantly done film noir

Author: wglenn from Stony Brook, NY
19 May 2002

Jim Thompson meets Joseph Conrad in a small, dusty town in Senegal. The writing is excellent throughout, delving into themes that most films would never have the guts to handle. Brutal, darkly humorous and brilliantly done. A great, great film noir. Not a movie for those easily offended (though one they should probably see and learn from.)

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18 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

in my top ten

Author: deng43 from United States
12 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

let's see - our reviewers have, to date, set the novel in Texas, the Carolinas, Kansas and Florida. does it matter? no, because this is one of the best films ever made, and where you think it should have been set doesn't matter a bit. and don't be put off by comments of this being about an idiot who finally gets offended and runs amuck, or a serial killer, or that it lacks the suspense a good thriller needs,or that the film is a failed noir; it is a noir that breaks the mold and never tries to insert venetian blinds into colonial Africa. it is a film that has enough layers that after 4 viewings i am sure i have not plumbed them at all well. i just cannot imagine what some of these reviewers were watching; it really isn't for everyone. if your shtick is political correctness, skip this one - it is just full of people saying 'ni--er'. people say the eff-word, as well. go somewhere else if this offends. but if you are interested in what makes folks tick, and how much odd crap lurks just beneath your own skin and by extension that it isn't yours alone; it belongs to all of us - then just go see the movie. a remake? might as well remake Golgotha and see if you can't improve on the tone of the moment, or get the message across better....

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34 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

Africa Screams

Author: writers_reign
31 May 2004

Looking at the slew of negative comments that this movie has racked up I can't help wondering what drew these people to it in the first place. What drew ME were the names attached to it, Tavernier, one of THE great contemporary French directors, Phillipe Noiret and Isabelle Huppert, two all-time GREAT French actors. Okay, everyone has the occasional off day but when you get to THIS level of writing, acting, directing, even the bad ones eclipse by a country mile the BEST of such joke talents as Godard and Tarentino and this particular entry is far from bad if anybody asks you. So I'm left with the inescapable conclusion that all these whingers must have wandered into the movie theater thinking they were going to see Gidget Goes Hawaian or How To Stuff A Wild Bikini in which case it is easy to understand their misgivings. For the record this is an excellent example of The Biter Bit aka The Worm Turns and all the ingredients are out of the right bottle and come together in a heady and satisfying brew. 8/10

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:


Author: ukkid35 from London, England
4 July 2012

One of the best films I've ever seen, period.

I have never laughed so much, then felt so guilty. BT is a genius.

Every moment is pure gold, every second to be treasured.

Like the best detective stories ever written, the puzzle is the least of the viewer's concerns. But rather BT submerges us in a world with which we are probably totally unfamiliar, and yet we never doubt it for a second.

The cast is peerless, with Noiret rewarding the viewer with his most perfectly nuanced/sympathetic/anti- hero imaginable. No one has ever been denied an Oscar so cruelly.

I have promised myself I will share this with everyone who is important to me, woe betide me if I fail.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Noir, south of heaven

Author: chaos-rampant from Greece
7 February 2011

I saw this as part of a Jim Thompson quest.

The film opens with a solar eclipse, a mythic way perhaps of foreshadowing the eclipse of humanity and values that follows. The West African setting is only proper in that aspect, like the setting of the Jim Thompson book, it's a doomed dusty limbo blotted out of the map where, in the absence of palpable law or ethos, humans are allowed to be the lowest they can be. Elsewhere the world is perhaps striving to maintain a moral appearance, but not so in Bourkassa, no one is looking there. Thompson had a dark view of humanity, for his own reasons, and for his protagonists, his crazed sheriffs and murderous sociopaths, he seems to reserve a last word that justifies their existence.

It's a really funny film, as a comedy it works marvels, and I like how Tavernier shifts the tone light to dark, goofy to perverse.

But what about Codier, the policeman of the small African town at the edge of the desert? Another reviewer reads in him a deranged figure of destiny that smites down people who deserve it, a vengeful Jesus placed on this earth not to save souls but to release them. But, even though his folly is obvious, the lack of retribution for his acts, the lack of a destiny to smite him, is it omission or statement? In an amoral universe that defies order, Codier is perhaps trying to maintain a perverse moral ground, or he's only serving his own bastard self, pushing his luck to see how far it will get him. If the film was a thriller it might have not worked, but I saw an absurd comedy foremost, and the laughter of that amoral universe is also echoed in Codier himself.

When he goes on on his little soliloquis on existence, Tavernier reaches for a solemn tone that seems strange at first, but at least we can understand that this murderous buffoon is no better than anyone else around him. He's likable because he suffers indignity with the nonchalance of a Mr. Hulot, but the next day he'll wake up a coward killer and scumbag. This contrast and his own belief in the incorrigible of his actions makes the movie work.

Perhaps he's so successful at being a scumbag, because the rest of the world permits it. If everyone else around him is either a moron or a scumbag, why should he strive to be any better? As a human being he's pathetic, but as a movie character I find him fascinating to watch. The fatalism that everyone gets what he deserves and there's no escaping the cogs of fate is the icing here.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

unsettling comedy-drama set in colonial Africa

Author: Michael Neumann from United States
12 November 2010

Bertrand Tavernier once again shows why he's one of his country's most challenging directors with this disturbing dark comedy, loosely adapted from a Jim Thompson novel ('POP 1280') but relocated to French Equatorial Africa just before World War II. The story follows a lazy, ineffective police chief in a dusty colonial city, who begins to manipulate his tormentors in much the same way they earlier abused him, discovering along the way the omnipotence of his position and the immunity provided by his reputation as an incompetent buffoon. After suffering the indignities of a natural born doormat all his life, he strikes back with a vengeance, slowly descending into a rational madness that commands sympathy while simultaneously provoking moral outrage (at one point he callously murders the innocent native servant who mistakenly witnessed on of his killings). Tavernier builds the tension from his characters rather than from the plot, using touches of unsettling black humor to further blur the line dividing comedy and tragedy.

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15 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

very oddly humorous and cold at the same time, and a curiously moving, low-key performance

Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
30 May 2009

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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