An inspired rendering of Jim Thompson’s pulp novel Pop. 1280, Bertrand Tavernier’s Coup de torchon (Clean Slate) deftly transplants the story of an inept police chief-turned-heartless killer and his scrappy mistress from the American South to French West Africa. Featuring pitch-perfect performances by Philippe Noiret and Isabelle Huppert, this striking neonoir straddles the line between violence and lyricism with dark humor and visual elegance. —The Criterion Collection
One of France’s premiere directors, screenwriters, and producers, Bertrand Tavernier is renowned for making dramas encompassing themes as diverse as familial relationships, World War I, and contemporary social ills. Regardless of the subjects they explore, Tavernier lends his films great introspection and humanity, something that has established him as one of the French cinema’s more progressive and compassionate figures.
Born in Lyon on April 25, 1941, Tavernier grew up with a love of film and wanted to be a director from the age of 13. He was particularly influenced by such American directors as Joseph Losey, John Ford, Samuel Fuller, and William Wellman, and – during a spell at the Sorbonne, where he studied law – he became involved in the film industry as an assistant director for Jean-Pierre Melville. Tavernier became then a film critic and worked for prestigious publications as Positif and Cahiers du Cinema. His first feature film, L’Horloger de St. Paul (1974), received international… read more
Inspired altered-setting adaptation of Jim Thompson's pulp fiction classic, even if it does slightly soften the tone of Thompson's novel to play up the humor and philosophical reflection. Superb performances, particularly Philippe Noiret's great understated work in the lead, and a young scene-stealing Isabelle Huppert. An excellent, razor-sharp dark comedy. Amazing score by Philippe Sarde.
Tavernier has combined style and substance into an incredible, cinematically exhilarating postmodern exploration into ethics and the human soul. If you have never seen this, give it a shot! The criterion dvd goes out of print at the end of this month...:(
In my opinion, COUP DE TORCHON is Bertrand Tavernier's masterpiece. Without the dogmatism of some of his films, without the too evident exposure of left-wing ideas found in his first movies, COUP DE TORCHON manages to carry Tavernier's personal ideas thanks to a bulletproof screenplay co-written with Jean Aurenche (Forbidden Games). If you like black humor, this is definitely a film for you. Indispensable.