Friday, December 8, 2023

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Coup de Torchon (1981) Film Soleil Noir Masterpiece

irected by Bertrand Tavernier ('Round Midnight). 

Written by Jean Aurenche, Bertrand Tavernier and based on Jim Thompson's novel "Pop. 1280." Cinematography was by by Pierre-William Glenn and Music by Philippe Sarde. 

The film stars Philippe Noiret (Cinema Paradiso, Il postino) as Lucien Cordier, Isabelle Huppert (Deep Water) as Rose, Jean-Pierre Marielle as Le Peron and his brother. Stéphane Audran as Huguette Cordier, Eddy Mitchell as Nono, Guy Marchand as Marcel Chavasson, Irène Skobline as Anne, the teacher, Michel Beaune as Vanderbrouck, Jean Champion as Priest, Victor Garrivier as Mercaillou, Gérard Hernandez as Leonelli, Abdoulaye Diop as Fête Nat, Daniel Langlet as Paulo, François Perrot as Colonel Tramichel, Raymond Hermantier as Blind man, Mamadou Dioumé as Mamadou, Samba Mané as Vendredi. 

Pop 1280 was one of the handful of Thompson novels based on a police chief character. These characters where partially based on Thompson's father, a politician with the knack for always saying the right thing at the right time. and also on an actual deputy. This spine-chilling deputy actually hassled Thompson for not paying a drunk and disturbing the peace fine. He once related his encounter in an interview.

"Alone with him on the vast prairie, the deputy becomes a creature of menace: "Lived here all my life . . . Everyone knows me. No one knows you. And we're all alone. What do you make o' that, a smart fella like you? . . . What do you think an ol' stupid country boy might do in a case like this?"

The deputy grins, puts on a pair of gloves, smacks a fist into the palm of his other hand.

"I'll tell you something. . . . Tell you a couple of things. There ain't no way of telling what a man is by looking at him. There ain't no way of knowing what he'll do if he has the chance. You think maybe you can remember that?"  (Jim Thompson - Oct 14 1990 NY Times)


July, 1938. Senegal, French West Africa (Afrique-Occidentale française). It's the rainy season. Buzzards and baobabs. The trees all have distinctive rings around their lower trunks. Below the rings, stripped bark is used to make rope, clothing, bags, and fishing nets. 

We see some half naked Senegalese children combing their fingers through loose soil looking for nourishing grubs which they then pop into their mouths. Yummy. 

Lucien Cordier, watches them from behind a baobab until a total solar eclipse darkens the scene and the temperature suddenly drops from the 90s to the 70s. Lucien starts a fire in brush pile and waves the children over to warm themselves. 

Philippe Noiret as Lucien Cordier

Lucien backs away. He's the french colonial police chief (sort of like Captain Louis Renault in Casablanca) but this is Bourkassa, a fly speck company logging / mill town that belongs to Vanderbruck. 

Professionally Cordier is expected to be very lax in enforcing anything. It's a company boom town, don't make waves. Look the other way. The two pimps that supply the bordellos give Lucien his payoff every month. They get a kick out of pushing him around. He's taken their disrespect and their money, until now, it's finally getting out of hand and it's starting to bother him. He's not getting much sleep.

Jean-Pierre Marielle as Le Peron, Noiret, and Gérard Hernandez Leonelli

Personal wise, he doesn't really give a shit. He's got it made in the shade so to speak. His wife Huguette is cheating on him with Nono, a slow witted blonde goof, she calls her "brother." It explains his living with them. Lucien in turn is balling love starved Rosie the cute wife of an older very abusive man who beats her out in the street at the slightest provocation. Her latest faux pas is she forgot his birthday. 

Noiret, Eddy Mitchell as Nono, and Stéphane Audran as Huguette Cordier

Lucien in turn is balling love starved Rosie the cute wife of an older very abusive man who beats her out in the street at the slightest provocation. Her latest faux pas is she forgot his birthday. 

Noiret and Isabell Huppert as Rose

So besides worrying about the two pimps he's spending every chance he can get in the saddle with Rose. No wonder he's not getting any sleep. He takes naps wherever he can. Lucien is also lining up in his sights the new schoolmarm in town Anne. How Noir is that?

He hops the train to headquarters, and after he explains his dilemma the superior demonstrates what he should do. He tells Lucien to turn around and he boots him out the door. 

He's a joke there too. Even they dis him. Ok. He gets it. They told him what to do but not how to do it.

So Lucien decides to clean house, Lucien style, wipe the slate clean. He's gonna clean up Bourkassa and the bad guys who are left better get the hell out of Dodge.

It goes Noirsville when Lucien, who has been acting the affable buffoon cop for so long that he walks right up to the two unsuspecting pimps pulls out his revolver, makes them sing a song, and fills them full of lead. 

He gets rid of the bodies the native Senegalese way, rolling them down the bank and dumping them in the Gambia River for a water burial. The Nile crocs in the river are well fed. And it's just the beginning. 


Noiret and Irène Skobline as Anne, the teacher

Guy Marchand as Marcel Chavasson

This is a great adaptation of Jim Thompson's novel. It just goes to show that the same ambiance and atmosphere found in Thompson's American West set Noir novels can transpose to an entirely different frontier in Wild West Africa. Bravo Bertrand Tavernier!

Philippe Noiret is excellent as Lucien, Isabelle Huppert is quite believable as the neglected wife. The rest of the cast is great. The tale is quite amusing and entertaining. 10/10