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Coup de Torchon (1981)

Coup de torchon (original title)
Not Rated | | Comedy, Crime, Drama | 4 November 1981 (France)
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2:06 | Trailer
A pathetic police chief, humiliated by everyone around him, suddenly wants a clean slate in life - and resorts to drastic means to do so.

Director:

Bertrand Tavernier
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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:
Philippe Noiret ... Lucien Cordier
Isabelle Huppert ... Rose Marcaillou
Jean-Pierre Marielle ... Le Peron et son frère L'adjudant Georges Le Peron
Stéphane Audran ... Huguette Cordier
Eddy Mitchell ... Nono - l'amant demeuré d'Huguette
Guy Marchand ... Marcel Chavasson
Irène Skobline Irène Skobline ... Anne - la nouvelle institutrice
Michel Beaune ... Vanderbrouck - un nouveau riche arrogant
Jean Champion Jean Champion ... Priest
Victor Garrivier Victor Garrivier ... Marcaillou
Gérard Hernandez Gérard Hernandez ... Leonelli
Abdoulaye Diop Abdoulaye Diop ... Fête Nat - le serviteur noir de Lucien
Daniel Langlet Daniel Langlet ... Paulo - un flic larvaire
François Perrot ... Le colonel Tramichel
Raymond Hermantier 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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Crime | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

France

Language:

French | English

Release Date:

4 November 1981 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Coup de Torchon See more »

Filming Locations:

Saint-Louis, Senegal See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jean Aurenche, the screenwriter had a publicity agency in the 30s. The agency employed Marcel Carné and Robert Bresson. The short shown before Alerte ... in the outdoors cinema was one of his for the Galeries Barbès in Paris (The subtitles on Criterion write wrongly Barbe's ) The movie has as actors Paul Grimault as the condemned man, Artigas as the captain and Jean Anouilh and Max Ernst as 2 of the soldiers. See more »

Goofs

The movie begins with a scene during a total eclipse of the sun. Between 1933 (Hitler comes to power) and 1939 (invasion of France), no path of totality from any solar eclipse touched French West Africa. See more »

Quotes

Lucien Cordier: Can you excuse a pole for filling a hole? It may squash some rabbits, but is it the pole's fault if it fits that hole?
George Le Peron: But a pole is an inanimate object.
Lucien Cordier: Aren't we all more or less inanimate?
George Le Peron: What do you mean?
Lucien Cordier: Who knows!
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

Featured in Scenes Under the Midnight Sun (1987) 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 Quinoa1984See 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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