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Coup de torchon, June 25

Isabelle Huppert: Passion and Contradiction

Sunday, June 25, 2006
5:30 p.m. Coup de torchon
(France, 1981)

(Clean Slate). Coup de torchon transposes Jim Thompson's misanthropic thriller Pop. 1280 from the American South to French West Africa, 1938. Its darkly comic approach is "the only way to speak about humiliation, racism and power," director Tavernier said. Philippe Noiret plays the film's dubious hero, the shambling police chief in a sleepy village where he is cuckolded by his wife (Stéphane Audran), taunted by the populace, and beaten by thugs and fellow officials alike. Only his scatterbrained mistress (Huppert) affords him a measure of respect. When he decides to clean up the town and avenge his personal grudges at the same time, he proves himself the most clear-thinking madman in a thoroughly corrupt world. The parable is told from a perspective that implies the viewer's complicity: "It is a film in which a lot of people spy on each other," Tavernier said, "and I wanted the camera to have the same feeling."

—Bertrand Tavernier

• Written by Tavernier, Jean Aurenche, from the novel Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson. Photographed by Pierre William Glenn. With Philippe Noiret, Isabelle Huppert, Pierre Marielle, Stéphane Audran. (128 mins, In French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, permission Janus/Criterion Collection)