Saturday, November 20, 2010

Three French Films Noir

The French get it. Here's three movies that exemplify that.

Clean Slate (Coup de Torchon)
French film based on Pop. 1280, by Jim Thompson, except the action is moved to French W. Africa in the late ‘30’s. It still works well. Police chief Cordier (Phillipe Noiret) comes on like a dim-witted buffoon, but when the town pimps push him too far, the murderous psychopath inside him emerges and he decides to wipe the whole town clean.

Shoot the Piano Player
1962-Francois Truffaut
Based on the novel Down There, by David Goodis, another example of a French director nailing the noir feel beautifully. After a personal disaster, an ex-concert pianist now plays in a seedy Paris café. His girlfriend wants him to make a comeback, but when he gets involved with some inept gangsters everything starts falling apart.
Solid acting, solid story, and even some surprising moments of humor. Superior movie.

A boarding school master (and complete asshole) is targeted for murder by his wife and his lover, who’ve had enough of his bullying and cruelty. But after they pull it off, the wife becomes more and more convinced that her husband is actually still alive. Crazy plot twists, mounting paranoia and jangled nerves follow.


  1. When I saw Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player and The Bride Wore Black, I liked both. But then when I read their source novels, I had a lot of issues with the liberties Truffaut took. Shoot the Piano Player has an element of pastiche that seems particularly out of touch with the novel. That doesn't seemed to have hurt the reputation of the movie -- on its own it is fine, but I don't think it works as an "adaptation," per se. I think I might be alone on this one, though...

  2. No, I agree about Shoot the Piano Player. The comedy touches are kinda broad and in tone, it's very "un-Goodis" (I just made up a word). So, no, it doesn't work as an "adaptation", but I still think it works as a film...

  3. Good calls. I'd put Purple Noon in there as my favourite Highmith adaptation

  4. i've just been lent a copy of Les Diaboliques. it's an old fave, a real piece of class.