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Coup de torchon More at IMDbPro »

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

POP. 1280 on film

Author: John Shane from United States
24 March 2013

After reading some of the reviews on here, I felt compelled to write one myself simply because it seems most of the people who reviewed this film did not read the book it was based on (POP 1280 by Jim Thompson). Some found it astonishing that one would actually seek out this book in the first place (including the director), but I happen to be a Jim Thompson junkie and I would say POP 1280 stands as his best work in the "psycho-lawman" sub-genre that he single-handedly created. It's far superior to the Killer Inside Me although many would disagree with that. Long ago, when I found out there was an actual film based on this book, I had to find it and see it. Luckily it was at my local blockbuster, and I rushed home to view this take on one of my favorite Thompson books. I have to say, it was a bit off-putting to see the whole story transposed to Senegal. However, as the film played, I realized that this was actually quite a brilliant move by Bernard. Aside from the location and French actors, everything else is mostly retained from the book in terms of the dark humor and over-the-top situations. The acting is superb and the cinematography is just gritty enough to give it the feel it needs. This is one of the best Thompson adaptations and I highly recommend it, especially if you have read the novel. I also recommend seeking out Serie_Noire which is the French adaptation of A Hell of A Woman. It's not as good as this one, but it's still excellent.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Sympathy for the Devil

Author: bkrauser-81-311064 from United States
21 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Lucien (Philippe Noiret) our thickset protagonist is a bit of a beguiling figure. On the surface he possesses all the traits of a villain or the very least a very unlikeable human-being. He's lazy and selfish; he carries on a lustful affair with a married and abused woman (Isabelle Huppert) and sees his position (a provincial sheriff) as an inconvenience not even bothering to arrest people who knowingly break serious laws. Furthermore he's utterly weak-willed; hen-pecked by his wife (Stephane Audran) and her peculiar brother (Eddy Mitchell) and harassed by his superiors in the provincial capital. What's worse a ballsy pimp who enjoys shooting cadavers in the local river decides humiliation is better than bribery as a means to getting what he wants. Something in Lucien finally snaps and he uses his only two advantages to rid the world of his problems; his intelligence and his remote location.

Coup de Torchon (1981) takes place "at the edge of civilization" on the outskirts of a French African colony mere months before WWII. Barely accessible by train, Lucien's small colorful town is a cesspool of disease, decay and crime to which Alex turns from idle bystander to perverted exterminating angel. Yet it is the way he pulls off his various revenges that is at once beguiling and disturbing. Every situation is pre-calculated and seemingly natural. Lucien never loses his sincerity or blows his cover which makes everything he does absolutely shocking. One minute he's shooting a man in the stomach, the next he's genteel with his mistress.

At one point Lucien remarks that he is the devil incarnate which while giving him a bit too much credit nevertheless plays into the themes of good and evil in the film. The story is bookended by a scene where Lucien is acting as a Prometheus-like figure to a group of African children; then by another where he aims his shotgun at one of the same children as a boy stares at him blankly. As morality and civilization crumbles throughout the film, the often felt but never seen rise of Nazism promises to obfuscate the sins of the reckless sheriff. Finally there's the character of the new school teacher (Irene Skobline) who exemplifies all that is good and innocent. At the end of the film when war is finally declared, Lucien dances with her as if she were the spoils of his hedonistic one man war.

As despicable as his actions are however, Lucien remains a charming central figure. Like Shakespeare's Iago, his mischievousness is hidden by an innocuous face and harmless, good-natured wit. Unlike in Bad Lieutenant (1997) this cop doesn't let the audience sit on the sidelines and say "there but by the grace of God go I." Coup de Torchon seduces you into indulging in Lucien's Machiavellian plans and for an instant lets you have sympathy for the devil.

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12 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

European script based on American novel

Author: Eric Van den Bossche from Brussels-Belgium
11 July 2006

One of the best films ever on my regard. It is possible that European viewers are more familiar with the colonial history behind it, though the script is based on an American novel (Pop.1280 by Jim Thompson). The original story is based in America, but here it is based in a French-African colony in the 1930's.

The baseline is a global truth: everybody has his breaking point.

Great acting performances by everyone involved.

Don't forget to check out the other films by this French director; he often shows he's one of the best!

And while you're there: some of the best movies (Tati, Resnais, Truffaut...) ever were made in France; so are some of the worst(DO NOT check out French comedies, they are mostly awful)

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10 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

I don't think this was meant to be a comedy.

Author: the_module from Minneapolis
21 April 2002

I watched this movie without reading any prior description of it. I thought this was an excellent film - very philosophical. I never once thought of it as a comedy until I read the video box after watching the tape. Now I come here and see people saying that it wasn't funny. Well, I think that possibly it was just marketed incorrectly and it quite possibly was not intended as comedy at all. Keep that in mind, but do see this movie if you appreciate thoughtful cinema.

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Pop 1280.

Author: morrison-dylan-fan from United Kingdom
28 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Despite seeing his name mentioned in connection with French cinema for a number of years,I've never had the chance to see a work from auteur Bertrand Tavernier. Getting set for a poll on the best films of 1981 on ICM,I took a look at French movies from the year,and was thrilled to spot to see Tavernier take on Jim Thompson!,which led to me flying the coup.

The plot:

1938-A French colony in West Africa.

Being one of the few "symbols" of law and order in the colony,police officer Lucien Cordier shows a disregard for the powers which matches the state of his personal life,where his wife Huguette has invited a "fake brother"/lover round to live with them,and Cordier himself tries starting an affair up with Rose Mercaillou. Treating black people as lower than dirt, Cordier overlooks any misdeeds with the mere fistful of a bribe. Annoyed at two pimps questioning his power,Cordier asks for advice from fellow officer Marcel Chavasson,who tells him to "act forcibly" which leads to Cordier using a bit too much force in the colony.

View on the film:

Appearing in Cordier's life like a flower in the desert, Isabelle Huppert gives an impeccable performance as Rose Mercaillou,with Huppert giving Rose pointed petals which get burnt by the simmering Noir frustrations of Cordier. Keeping her other lover secret, Stéphane Audran gives a great, consistently changing performance as Huguette Cordier,whose flirting with the toyboy Audran turns to stone at the mere whiff of her husband Lucien.

Stomping round the colony like a crusty warthog, Philippe Noiret gives a magnificent performance as Lucien Cordier. Wanting to do as little work as possible,Noiret gives Cordier an unsettling casual attitude to fights on the street,and signs of annoyance at even the suggestion of helping out black people in the colony. Taking officer Chavasson's advice, Noiret sands down to the Neo-Noir veins of Cordier,that are pulled with a friction over Cordier overstepping in the land.Dissecting the original US setting for a French African colony,co- writer/(with Jean Aurenche) director Bertrand Tavernier & cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn retain the Noir roots with a blistering evil under the sun atmosphere, that makes the sights of the local mob and Cordier gunning his own brand of justice clear to see,in the cold light of day.

Shot on location, Tavernier seeps the Noir mood with the grit and dry blood of the colony in elegantly held tracking shots following Cordier's descent into vicious contempt.Moving from the Deep South of Thompson's book,the screenplay by Bertrand Tavernier and Jim Thompson takes the racism over to deepest West Africa,where the horrific treatment Cordier and the whites lash out cover the screen in Noir vile. Filling Cordier's hands with dirty money that gets him to turn a blind eye,the writers brilliantly chip away at Cordier way of life and unveil a nihilism that Cordier is unable to drop back into the water and hide from the colony pop 1280.

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10 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Ambitious failure?

Author: ThurstonHunger from Palo Alto, CA, USA
23 September 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In general the Criterion Collection has been pretty reliable for me, and while I'm glad I came across this film, I see it as a somewhat ambitious failure. I have not read the Thompson novel from which it was drawn, but transplanting a story from the American South to crumbling colonial West Africa alone is inspired.

If the film is a comedy, then it did not work me. The melding of slapstick with social commentary ran thin for me, but again it could just be that I lack le bone funny. At least I recognized parts here that likely were intended to be ribald (as opposed to some Japanese humor, where I'm often completely lost).

Perhaps it is not that the humor is stupid (although the recurring dimwit incest interlude and the outhouse surprise...surely push it), but that the characters are stupid. That being said, the lead character it is of course crucial that you see him as a bozo of sorts, but behind his broad caricature of indolence, is there some intuition or even initiative stashed away? Again, an ambitious choice to have an apparent laggard as your lead character. He's seen as perpetually exhausted and at the same time amazingly lazy. An inept if not corrupt sheriff, but potentially very fair-minded. A slothful yet irresistible sex machine? That character alone was worth the watch for me, especially a couple of more serious discussions he has.

But ultimately what does the film do? Take us from the joys of a meaningless existence to the tragedy of a meaningless existence. The directors sets up some of the early kills as somewhat justified, only to move through less and less "necessary" slaughter ending abruptly with the image of innocence being as wantonly wasted? And that image is meant to tie back visually to the films start, as if to imply this is just the way of the world. A cycle of violence.

Does this excuse our pot-bellied peculiar policeman? Do his messianic delusions even make sense, as he plots to seduce the "pure" schoolteacher? And do the three women intentionally seem to similar, as if they are plots along the same curve and that curve is a circle.

I don't know, and regrettably I did not care as much as I should have. Perhaps the clumsiness of the film that might pass as charm for other viewers? Perhaps the predictable randiness, that even a few decades ago felt like a use of sex as cheap titillation.

Is it just a parable of despair? Is it just a jokey eulogy for the colonial ways, saying adieu to its greed, stupidity and savagery? I don't know, that's why it gets a 5/10 for me... I do know that it makes me want to read the Thompson novel to see what inspired Tavernier to take on this.

See what you think, but if you think I'm too harsh on the stupidity of the film, I hope you get the DVD that offers the proposed alternate ending with two monkeys... Ugh...that would have got a 3/10.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

French comedy - or is it?

Author: Patrick Nackaert from Belgium
19 November 2016

French humor is like coffee: you either like it or dislike it. As the film starts, one can quickly make up its mind about whether it's enjoyable to watch or not. But it isn't what it seems.

A corrupt cop in Western Africa with little respect or authority turns to vengeance. It describes the film perfectly. However, just like the description of French comedy, it isn't what it seems.

The dark humor, film-noir in a town filled with light, the little rhymes in the dialogues: it's been thought over, earning good ratings from critics. It's understandable, when it's mixed with symbolism, philosophical discussions and a very realistic scenery.

Add the blatant racism and the actors' excellent performances, and we're mixing too many things. For some reasons, it felt like watching a play at the theater, as well due to the intense dialogues.

However, it fails to capture the attention. The film misses direction. The actors seem distant. Despite so many good ingredients, the end result isn't convincing. But it is surely to those who like a mix of genres.

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Well-made but overlong and confused movie

Author: gridoon2016
7 July 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Coup De Torchon" is technically well-made and well-acted (as you'd expect from a French prestige picture), but it doesn't seem to have much of a point to make, unless it is trying to tell us, as Pauline Kael accurately puts it, that "killing on a small scale is less immoral than killing on a big scale". It begins as a pitch-black comedy, but it stops being funny when Noiret kills a completely innocent person; from that point on, it seems to have nowhere to go but down. At 123 minutes this film is too long, and it runs out of steam long before the end, although some scenes do retain their shock value. One major plus is the fresh-looking cinematography; on DVD, the film looks as if it was made only a few years ago. ** out of 4.

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6 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

I don't think this was meant to be a comedy.

Author: the_module from Minneapolis
21 April 2002

I watched this movie without reading any prior description of it. I thought this was an excellent film - very philosophical. I never once thought of it as a comedy until I read the video box after watching the tape. Now I come here and see people saying that it wasn't funny. Well, I think that possibly it was just marketed incorrectly and it quite possibly was not intended as comedy at all. Keep that in mind, but do see this movie if you appreciate thoughtful cinema.

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6 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Great cinema

Author: grendel-28 from Mad City, WI
13 April 1999

A rather grim movie, that as you can tell from other comments is not for everyone. But assuming that you do have brains by all means go (rent) and see the movie. A great period piece about misadventures of an unlikely serial killer in French Africa. The first twenty or so minutes of the movie are spent setting the unlikeliness of the killer who appears to be treated as a door mat by just about everyone untill the tables are turned. And are they turned indeed... Once started to kill our hero has to keep it up trying to cover his tracks and the only thing you are left to wonder is whether he can pull it off and cover everything up.

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