Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Coup De Torchon
France, 1981. Les Films de la Tour, Films A2, Little Bear. Directed by Bertrand Tavernier. Screenplay by Bertrand Tavernier, Jean Aurenche, based on the novel Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson. Cinematography by Pierre-William Glenn. Produced by Henri Lassa, Adolphe Viezzi. Music by Philippe Sarde. Production Design by Alexandre Trauner. Costume Design by Jacqueline Moreau. Film Editing by Armand Psenny. Podcasts: My Criterions. Academy Awards 1982.
Stunning on both the visual and narrative front, this is Bertrand Tavernier’s French adaptation of the American pulp novel Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson (The Grifters). Philippe Noiret is excellent as a useless sheriff in a tiny Senegalese town in the 1930s (the original novel took place in the American south, here it’s a French west African colony) who is respected by no one. His wife (Stephane Audran) cheats on him and humiliates him wherever she can, the local racist population generally taunts him in public, and he himself turns a blind eye whenever any criminal activity is to be found. The only reasonably healthy relationship he has is with the local sexpot (Isabelle Huppert), a hilariously congenial character who brightens up every scene she’s in. Things take a turn when Noiret gets fed up with the way he is treated and goes on a murderous killing spree in order to punish his fellow citizens for undermining him. Highlighted by a fantastic musical score and beautiful cinematography, this is something you won’t want to miss.