sábado, 7 de marzo de 2009

Coup de torchon

Coup de torchon (Criterion DVD, 2001)
Directed by Bertrand Tavernier
France, 1981
In French with English subtitles

If I didn't already have another French movie in mind for the job, this unconventional black comedy/film noir would have made a pretty swanky entry for Bethany's Orbis Terrarum Film Mini-Challenge. A free adaptation of Jim Thompson's 1964 American pulp novel, Pop. 1280, Tavernier's Coup de torchon (Clean Slate) moves the tale of madness and murder out of the American south and into the blinding sunlight of 1938 French West Africa. Phillipe Noiret is outstanding as Lucien Cordier, a bumbling, corrupt police officer in the remote provincial town of Bourkassa, who's a likable enough guy despite all his flaws and married prostitute mistress (a superb Isabelle Huppert) until he decides to confront all the evil surrounding him at the point of a gun. As his malaria-like illness progresses, Tavernier and co-screenwriter Jean Aurenche take the opportunity to skewer colonial era morals and racism by permitting Cordier's exterminating angel tendencies to justify themselves in what Jean Genet has referred to as a sort of "redemption through crime." While the film is particularly tough on French colonials ("White folks aren't meant for vultures," a white character tells a black character in a work in which African corpses are routinely dumped into the river and then shot at for sport), its caustic, misanthropic vision doesn't take it any easier on the rest of us; as Cordier notes at one point, "If it's true [people] were made in God's image, I wouldn't like to get Him in a dark alley." Probably the best of the three movies I've seen made out of Jim Thompson books--although I'd love to check out After Dark, My Sweet (1990) and especially The Grifters (1991) again one of these days just to make sure. (http://www.criterion.com/)

Lucien (Noiret) et Rose (Huppert): both married, just not to each other

6 comentarios:

  1. It seems you love intense movies! It is a comedy though?

    French films have a reputation in Spain and all the ones I have seen live up to it: sleazy.

    What do you think are spaniards right?

    ps I went crazy searching through your posts because I though you were who recommended Slumdog Millionaire. I couldn't find it! Did you review it? If you haven't seen that though, I just watched it last night and it was splendid. I'm going to write up a review soon :)

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  2. Bethany, intense movies are like the spicy food of the film world! How could I not love them? This one's definitely unusual, though, in that it's kind of a messed-up comedy and an exploration of morality in an amoral world at one and the same time. Probably not for everybody.

    Although I loved your comment/question on the French sleaze thing (been thinking about that one all day long!), I guess I don't agree with the idea that French filmmakers are any dirtier than anywhere else. I think French directors might be a little more interested in exploring characters on the margins of society (criminals, prostitutes, etc.) than directors elsewhere, but I wouldn't want to read too much into that. By the way, France is my favorite country for foreign films--so I hope you'll check out "Jean de Florette" (1986) or "Amélie" (2001) before you give up on the French film industry for good!

    I haven't seen "Slumdog" yet, but I'll probably catch it on video before long. Glad you liked it--and I'm really looking forward to your debut in film reviewing!

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  3. I LOVED "Jean de Florette", it was sad, but very moving and sweet. Gerard Depardieu is one of my all time favourite actors. I want to watch the sequel, but haven't been able to find it yet, what is it called, Manon of..something? I also liked Cyrano de Bergerac.

    I don't think that everything that comes out of France is sleazy, I was just repeating that because Spaniards (well the whole rest of Europe) have this slight annoyance with France and they never want to admit that the french could possibly do anything better, or really even good. I don't agree (fully).

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  4. The photo is very cool, I like Isabelle, a fine actress. The last film I saw was excellent, too:
    YouTube - Rööperi Trailer
    a story of real criminals in a formerly so bad reputationed area of Helsinki called Rödberget in Swedish, Rööperi comes from that as a Finnish equivalent. Because we can't "pronounce"..:-) The film lasts 2 hours but I didn't glance at my watch at all, always something going on. That's a good film to me:-) Good night!

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  5. *Bethany: "Manon of the Spring" is a fine follow-up to "Jean de Florette," and I liked "Cyrano de Bergerac" too. That bias against the French thing always amuses me, but you're not the first one to bring it up so I guess it's true!

    *Merike: Huppert is great, isn't she? I'll have to seek out that movie you mention because I haven't seen a Finnish film in a couple of years now (and only one other Scandinavian one come to think of it). Thanks for the tip!

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