Coup de torchon (Clean Slate) (1981)



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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


Critic Reviews for Coup de torchon (Clean Slate)

All Critics (6) | Top Critics (1)

This movie never quite breathes. It's an exercise. You can admire an exercise, but it's hard to really care about one.

Oct 23, 2004 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

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

Jun 10, 2011 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

Clean Slate is a compelling offbeat morality play.

Feb 4, 2004 | Full Review…

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

Jul 16, 2002 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

a study in amorality disguised as a sometimes shocking black comedy

Mar 22, 2001 | Rating: 3.5/4

Audience Reviews for Coup de torchon (Clean Slate)

Transposing Jim Thompson's novel to a wholly different culture was a master stroke by director Bertrand Tavernier, who explores the colonialist mindset and its delusional god complex and warped sense of justice through its main character's philosophy, sexuality, and dark humour. A clueless, coward and lazy but seemingly bening police captain in a French colonial town begins to experience evil with the help of town folks, soon he himself will be the main instigator of bloodshed, and he will be convinced that it is all for a righteous cause

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer


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

This was not my favorite Jim Thompson book, but Tavernier's vision is brilliant. Truly a film of nihilism, even more awry by the jazzy score and jumpy camera revealing Noiret's diminishing psychological state. The French African colony setting was a perfect for this translation.

Stefanie C
Stefanie C

Super Reviewer

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