Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hard Boiled Comedy

Coup de Torchon (1981) - Tavernier
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When one thinks about Jim Thompson's pulp fiction adaptations, the word hilarious is not the one that comes to mind. Steeped in noir trappings and amoral protagonist (played wryly here by Philippe Noiret), it's funny as shit. Tavernier exchanges Thompson's American South setting with French colonial Africa where corrupt, racist authorities and swindlers, pimps & whores inhabit side by side, two-peas-in-the-pod, fly-n-shit, laissez-faire existence. Lucien (Noiret) is a sherif in a pop. 1280 town. He has a nagging wife and her creepy brother/lover living with them. He is seeing a married woman (young Isabelle Huppert) with a boorish husband. He gets kicked around by everyone. And there is absolutely no indication of Lucien's murderous intentions for dubious characters surrounding him. If it was a straight-up noir, Coup de Torchon should to be chilling when Lucien plays all the angles and later justifying his actions. But Noiret has such a goofy face and is so nonchalant, you just smile with him. All the supporting characters are superb- Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Marielle and Irène Skobline are all wonderful in their respective roles. Huppert is foxy as hell in this. Come to think of it, the film is quite dark with Lucien and African children scenes bookending the movie. But It is such a fun ride and one of the funniest black comedies I've seen in a long time.

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