Bertrand Tavernier relocates Jim Thompson’s 1964 Texas-set pulp novel Pop. 1280 to a sunbaked, dirt-caked Senegalese village, where its burnout, publicly mocked police chief Lucien Cordier (a magnificent Philippe Noiret) suddenly decides to start killing his enemies. Within the palpable racist climate of French West Africa, Tavernier blends the restrained absurdity of Camus’s The Stranger with the keyed-up violence of Taxi Driver into a damning critique of French Imperialism and bourgeois society. In addition to its macabre sense of humor, and the brilliant performances all around—especially a young Isabelle Huppert as Cordier’s mistress—Tavernier’s use of the lingering Steadicam gives an effortless precision to Coup de torchon’s tense and awkward energy. Print courtesy of the Institut Français.
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