Coup de torchon (Clean Slate) (1981)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Based on pulp master Jim Thompson's Pop. 1280, Bertrand Tavernier's Coup de Torchon is a sardonic thriller that remains true to its source's spirit, even as it transposes the action from the American South to colonial West Africa. Lucien (Philippe Noiret) is the bumbling police chief of Bourkasa, a dusty outpost in rural Senegal. Badgered by local thugs, Lucien initially comes across as a pathetic oaf unable to stand up for himself. Things at home are scarcely better, as Lucien finds himself harried by his nagging wife, Huguette (Stéphane Audran), who is carrying on an affair with a man she claims to be her brother (Eddy Mitchell). Without warning, Lucien embarks on a nonchalant killing spree, murdering everyone who has ever mistreated him. As he sets about "cleaning the slate," Lucien intensifies his affair with ditsy Rose (Isabelle Huppert), all the while pining for the newly arrived schoolteacher, Anne (Irene Skobline). Remaining above suspicion even as bodies pile up, the seemingly witless Lucien gradually develops a twisted logic for his actions, animating his crusade with an evangelical purpose. By movie's end, Tavernier leaves little room for redemption, leaving the joyless Lucien mired in a moral quagmire of his own making. ~ Elbert Ventura, Rovi
Action & Adventure , Art House & International , Comedy , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
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Philippe Noiret
as Lucien Cordier
Jean-Pierre Marielle
as Le Peron, Le Peron's brother
Stéphane Audran
as Hughuette Cordier
Guy Marchand
as Chavasson
Michel Beaune
as Vanderbrouck
Jean Champion
as Priest
Victor Garrivier
as Mercaillou
Gerard Hernandez
as Leonelli
François Perrot
as Col. Tramichel
Mamadou Dioume
as Mamadou
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Coup de torchon (Clean Slate)

All Critics (6) | Top Critics (1)

Shifting the locale of Jim Thompson's novel to Colonial Africa, Tavernier has made a compelling, well acted film.

Full Review… | June 10, 2011

Clean Slate is a compelling offbeat morality play.

Full Review… | February 4, 2004
Spirituality and Practice

It's often hilarious. It's just that that humor is so mordant that it's sometimes hard to accept.

Full Review… | July 16, 2002

a study in amorality disguised as a sometimes shocking black comedy

March 21, 2001
Q Network Film Desk

Quote not available.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Quote not available.

July 31, 2002
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Audience Reviews for Coup de torchon (Clean Slate)


A intriguing morality tale with sprinkles of dark humor, sex and violence leaving a film that stays with you. Great direction, script and acting.

Anthony Valletta
Anthony Valletta

Super Reviewer

A wonderfully shot mix of drama, noir and gallows humor. Arguably Philippe Noiret's best performance.

Brian Krause-Rivera
Brian Krause-Rivera

Coup de Torchon (Clean Slate) shifts the action of Jim Thompson's rural noir novel Pop 1280 from Texas around the time of World War One to Senegal on the eve of World War Two. Despite the geographic change the film is largely true to the novel's plot and style. Philippe Noiret is brilliant as the sole police officer of a small French colonial town on the edge of the desert. The supporting cast is also excellent. Direction, cinematography, sets, musical score and use of local color are all superbly handled. Like much of Thompson's oeuvre the story blend particularly violent noir style with brilliant dark humor and a nihilistic amorality. A great piece of entertainment for the viewer who is not easily offended.

David Duncan
David Duncan

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