Football films #3 : Coup de tête (aka: hothead, France – 1979)

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for Cinetalk.net

Coup de tête was Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 2nd feature following his Oscar winner  Black and White in Color (La Victoire en chantant, 1977, Best Foreign Language Film). Annaud co-wrote the screenplay with Francis Veber (Three fugitives)from an idea by Alain Godard.

Patrick Dewaere (Going places, Beau père) stars as Francois Perrin (a character that bears Veber’s signature). He is a (euro) football player from a lower division French team making an unexpected cup ascension in the round of 16. Everything in the village, even the economy, is set around the football craze. When the local star of the team gets into trouble , hotheaded Perrin is the designated scapegoat and he ends up in jail. An injury to a key player calls for Perrin’s pardon and he becomes an instant hero, bringing victory home. His sudden rise is an opportunity for vengeance.

Cinematographer Claude Agostini natural low key lighting offers valuable space for the acting performances. And Dewaere was simply a natural, one of the greatest. He is  royal as Perrin giving life to the sharp dialogues with sympathetic irony. The rest of the great cast (Michel Aumont, Jean Bouise, etc) also offers plenty while delivering great lines.

With right on target light heart whistled tunes,  Pierre Bachelet’s music makes sure the treatment never gets to be too heavy and helps make it work by not being too serious for its own good.

Made prior to Annaud’s more ambitious Quest for fire, Name of the Rose & Enemy at the Gates, Coup de tête is a clever comedy-drama. It depicts a village life where the game is the law, paving the way to the lowest kind of corruption and supreme macho culture.

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