Coup de Torchon  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Coup de Torchon is a 1981 French film adaptation of Jim Thompson's 1964 novel Pop. 1280, directed by Bertrand Tavernier. The film follows the novel relatively faithfully, but changes its setting from a West Texas boom town to a small town in French West Africa.




Lucien Cordier (Philippe Noiret) is an ineffectual local constable with a cheating wife and laughable job. He accepts condecension from his superiors and his wife with good humor, as his antisocial personality allows him to tolerate such abuse. However, he soon realizes that he can use his position to gain vengeance with impunity, and he starts to kill everyone who has regarded him as a fool. After numerous trysts and murders, his pathology catches up with him in the film's climax.

Full plot


In a little town in French West Africa in 1938, Lucien Cordier is the only policeman. Unable or unwilling to impose his authority, he is treated with scorn by everybody. His sexy wife Huguette has brought a lover, Nono, to live openly with them, claiming he is her brother. Cordier fancies the mischievous young bride Rose, but lets her brutal husband beat her in the street unchallenged. The head of the timber company, Vanderbrouck, daily insults him for all to see. And the bane of his life is a pair of slimy pimps, who flout the law and enjoy humiliating him.

It is the pimps that take him to the brink, so he gets on a train to consult his superior Chavasson, who tells him to act forcefully. On the train home is the attractive new teacher in town, Anne, to whom he warms immediately. Once back, he catches the two pimps alone and, after shooting both dead, throws the corpses in the river. When Chavasson learns of this, he rushes down to question Cordier, who says it was in effect Chavasson who killed them. Having outwitted his boss and removed his prime tormentors, Cordier starts on the others who have made his life a misery. Vanderbrouck is dropped in a privy and Rose's husband, like the pimps, is shot dead and thrown in the river. When his servant retrieves his master's body and brings it back to the house, Cordier has to kill him as well.

Catching Nono peeping at Anne in the shower, he beats him up in the street. Then he steals the money which his wife had been saving up in order to leave him and goes off to see the newly widowed Rose. Huguette and Nono, reckoning that he is going to abscond with Rose and the money, storm round to Rose's and in self-defence Rose shoots both dead. Cordier gives her the money and tells her to get away fast. All he has left in life is Anne, to whom he confesses his general malaise and specific crimes. She is ready to accept him but he says he is now incapable of love. In the closing shot, he is alone under a tree caressing a revolver.


See also

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