Thursday, September 22, 2011

Coup de Torchon

Coup de Torchon; drama/ satire, France/ Senegal, 1981; D: Bertrand Tavernier, S: Philippe Noiret, Isabelle Huppert, Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Eddy Mitchell, Guy Marchand

An African country during the French colonialism. Lucien is a sloppy local police officer who is humiliated and despised by everyone: his wife Huguette openly cheats on him with Nono; local crooks and pimps like Le Peron ridicule his authority and bribe him while even his superior, Marcel, belittles him for his inefficiency. When Marcel jokingly advises him to eliminate the crooks, Lucien untypically follows his advice and shoots them, humiliating them before. From there on he gets the hang of revenge and shoots Rose's husband, who beat her. Lucien starts an affair with Rose and even kills the African "Friday" because he was a witness. Finally, he frames Rose by spreading the rumor that she stole Huguette's money: in self-defence, Rose kills Huguette and Nono.

The concept of a weak, humiliated underdog suddenly getting the upper hand over his tormentors in a twist of fate or chance is a good base for numerous films, and Bertrand Tavernier's cynical "Coup de Torchon", nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film, copes well in that category until it suddenly seems to lose interest in it and wonders away into other directions - messages about colonialist (White) morals in general - which are also good but not quite that engaging. Philippe Noiret plays the overweight, sloppy police officer Lucien well, a person who is humiliated by virtually everyone - in one especially ironic sequence, after Lucien was bribed and humiliated by two pimps, his superior Marcel kicks him in the butt and throws him through the door into another room, and then he does it again (!): so by "demonstrating" to him how it "feels" like to be humiliated by two pimps, his superior actually humiliates him again! The African desert panorama is opulent, the dialogues are incredibly cynical ("Better the blind man who pisses out the window than the joker who told him it was a urinal. Know who the joker is? It's everybody."; "There are three kinds of French: real French, shit French and French shit. You're not even French shit!") and the initial vengence of the seemingly harmless Lucien, who starts killing his opressors, has some spice and wit, yet with the running time of over 125 minutes the movie deflates itself way too much: Chabrol would have stopped at 90 minutes and achieved an excellent film, while Tavernier overstretched the story way pass the limit when the viewers started loosing their concentration.


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