Clean Slate (Coup De Torchon)


(out of 5)

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.


France, 1981

Directed by

Screenplay by Bertrand Tavernier, Jean Aurenche, based on the novel Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson

Cinematography by

Produced by

Music by

Production Design by

Costume Design by

Film Editing by

The Criterion Collection

Cast Tags:   

Academy Award Nomination
Best Foreign Language Film (France)

Cesar Award Nominations
Best Film
Best Actor (Philippe Noiret)
Best Actress (Isabelle Huppert)
Best Supporting Actor (Eddy Mitchell)
Best Supporting Actor (Jean-Pierre Marielle)
Best Supporting Actress (Stephane Audran)
Best Director (Bertrand Tavernier)
Best Screenplay, Original or Adaptation
Best Editing
Best Production Design



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