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Coup de Torchon (The Criterion Collection)

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Editorial Reviews

An inspired rendering of Jim Thompson's pulp novel Pop. 1280, Bertrand Tavernier's Coup de torchon (Clean Slate) deftly transplants the story of an inept police chief- turned-heartless killer and his scrappy mistress from the American South to French West Africa. Featuring pitch-perfect performances by Philippe Noiret and Isabelle Huppert, this striking neo-noir straddles the line between violence and lyricism with dark humor and visual elegance, perfectly captured by Criterion's glorious new anamorphic transfer.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Philippe Noiret, Isabelle Huppert, Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Eddy Mitchell
  • Directors: Bertrand Tavernier
  • Writers: Bertrand Tavernier, Jean Aurenche, Jim Thompson
  • Producers: Adolphe Viezzi, Henri Lassa
  • Format: Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English, French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: March 13, 2001
  • Run Time: 128 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000059H7Q
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,733 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Coup de Torchon (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By albemuth on April 2, 2001
Format: DVD
This is the best film adaptation of Jim Thompson to date, and a marvellous film beside that fact. Tavernier knows the book throughout but doesn't bow to it; he builds his own movie out of the story filling it with character and nuance. He doesn't cop out like Peckinpah, or try to be too clever - he makes a classic film that works, not because he builds on convention, but because he makes it all his own. The actors, especially Noiret, appear to be thoroughly enjoying the filming and provide us with sly performances that don't knock you over only because they are too subtle for that. Truly a wonderful film, startling in its bursts of violence and in its understated black humor. Pay attention and the rewards will be many.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Ian Muldoon on October 8, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A strangely beautiful film which works its magic on the viewer from the opening credits of first a black bird, then a sole black African child filling the screen. I was especially taken by the cinematography itself and the use of colour. The mis en scene is almost always a dun or sand or pale brown pastel colour but pierced by small brilliant colours found in such things as a cummerbund, or pocket kerchief, or the singlet of the protagonist or his odd red sock, a green bottle of absinthe in an outside bar, a green light shade at night, or a crimson hat band on soldiers. Added to this is the startlingly effective use of music , a collage of sounds which modify the images rather than compound or complement them providing a tone of tragi-comedy, a kind of comedy noir. There is also a memorable nightmare sequence which the protagonist experiences. As for themes - perhaps that of the scandalous Colonial in another's country, the stranger in a strange land, the decline of the West-

or an ageing Colonial Police Chief searching for the meaning of his life and exacting punishment on those who deserve it, on those that he is able to. The closing moments are quite memorable. Isabelle Huppert reminds one of her rich chameleon talents and is quite brilliant. A marvellous cinematic experience.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. O. DeRiemer TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 6, 2006
Format: DVD
Lucien Cordier (Philippe Noiret) is the overweight, lazy, unshaven chief of police in Bourkassa, Senegal. It's 1938, and this French colony is a backwater of dust, flies and dysentery. Cordier can't talk his wife, Huguette (Stephane Audran), into sharing his bed, but she is very solicitous of her "brother" who lives with them. He takes bribes from two pimps who humiliate him in public. He's the butt of jokes among his superiors. He has hot eyes for Rose Marcaillou (Isabelle Huppert), who is a sexy young woman with a brute of a husband. Cordier willingly puts off doing almost anything, including making arrests. He's a man easy to get impatient with and easy to push around. "You never arrest anybody," the local priest tells him one day. "You've got to show folks you're brave, honest and hard working." "I can't," Cordier says. "Why not?" "Because I'm not brave, honest and hardworking." One night, after making the two pimps sing a bawdy song on the banks of the river, he shoots both of them and pushes their bodies into the current.

Coup de Torchon is a black comedy so dark you'll need to look carefully; so elegant you'll smile at Cordier's planning and improvisations; so clever you may consider a few murders of your own. The dialogue is sharp and amusing. The background score is an energetic mix of Thirties popular themes. The end of the movie is a sort of sour, bittersweet mixture that leaves an interesting taste in the mouth.

Cordier decides to get rid of Rose's husband, which he does with a shotgun blast. As the man lies dying, Cordier walks over and kicks him hard several times. "I know kicking a dead man isn't very nice," Cordier tells Marcaillou, kicking him again, "but first, I wanted to and second, there's no risk involved.
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Daniel S. on April 11, 2001
Format: DVD
When they are on location, film directors usually tend to forget the actors in order to become for a while only still photographers. If James Bond is in Paris, one can be sure to enjoy a free guided tour of the city including the Eiffel Tower, Les Champs-Elysées and l'Arc de Triomphe. So, when one reads that the story of french director Bertrand Tavernier's COUP DE TORCHON is happening in the French West Africa of 1938, wild images begin to fly through the movie lover's anxious mind : elephants, lions, snakes, Tarzan, glorious sunsets and other african clichés suddenly make their appearance in front of his very eyes.
But amateurs of touristic trips will be very disappointed with Tavernier's use of african landscapes. The director is even playing with us in the scene involving the french rock singer Eddy NONO Mitchell standing on his bed because something is moving under his bed. We are all waiting for a snake, a scorpion or a colourful spider to burst out while the dangerous animal is finally described as a vulgar night butterfly that the director doesn't even judge necessary to show to the audience. Bertrand Tavernier is not following the usual codes of the genre and is saying it.
In fact, Bertrand Tavernier doesn't follow any codes in COUP DE TORCHON. The main character, Philippe LUCIEN CORDIER Noiret, is presented as a weak corrupted policeman despised by the local bad boys. Once he has earned a bit of our sympathy, he turns into a machiavelic no-law madman driven by revenge. The last scene of COUP DE TORCHON deserves to stay in movie history : Philippe Noiret, by the sole power of his eyes and gestures, makes us understand that he has become completely mad.
So why Africa ? For its strange atmosphere, for its heat, for its colours.
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