Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Police on My Back: Part Two

POLICE, ADJECTIVE / Politist, adjectiv
(Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania, 2009, 113 mins.)

Click here for part one

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As the walking and (cigarette) smoking continues, Cristi also follows a young woman who might be Victor's girlfriend and maintains contact with Alex (Alexandru Sabadac), an informant who hangs out with the two. At home, he argues with his schoolteacher wife, Anca (Irina Saulescu), about love songs. She appreciates the lyrical allusions; he doesn't understand why people don't just say what they mean.

After four more days, Cristi's supervisor, Anghelache (Vlad Ivanov, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), orders a sting operation. Cristi doesn't want the arrest on his conscience, but Anghelache doubts that Cristi even knows what "conscience" means, so he makes him look up the word in the dictionary and read it aloud. He also states that
if Cristi refuses, he's off the force. The way Anghelache sees it, it doesn't matter that Victor isn't dealing; sharing an illegal substance still counts as "distribution."

So, Cristi makes a choice. Whether or not it's the right or correct one depends on your definitions of "right" and "correct." Cristi's moral quandary, in concert with Porumboiu's patient camera work, brings Béla Tarr, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, and even Tony Richardson to mind (I'm thinking specifically of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner), except it's actually a black comedy in disguise. And while I appreciated his feel for the everyday life of a dogged professional, I could've done without the Tarr-like scenes of Cristi eating, which go on longer than necessary.

The director's emphasis on surveillance also recalls Michael Haneke's Caché, since we're constantly watching someone, except we know exactly who's doing the watching and why (in Caché, we know that someone is watching Daniel Auteuil, but the culprit remains a mystery). Police, Adjective, which never feel as eerie, is a procedural without guns and car chases, but rather laws and correct--if outdated--grammar.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Police, adj: police power, police corruption, police state.
-- Merriam-Webster

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Police, Adjective plays the Varsity Theater through Thurs., 2/11. The Varsi-
ty is located at 4329 University Way NE. For more information, please click
here or call 206-781-5755. Images from IFC Films and IONCINEMA.COM.

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