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Police, Adjective another darling of Cannes
by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

Police, Adjective
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Sure, lots of crap gets dumped on unwary filmgoers this time of year, but it's also the time when odd little gems sneak into theaters hoping to catch a little of the elusive spotlight. This week's odd little gem is Police, Adjective.

Director Corneliu Porumboiu's minimalist satire was lauded at Cannes in 2009. His 2006 film, 12:08 East of Bucharest, was awarded the prestigious Camera d'Or that year. It looks like Cannes has a new darling in this derisive Romanian filmmaker and his deceptively simple film style.

Cristi (Dragos Bucur) is a young Romanian cop tailing a teenager who smokes hash with a couple of friends. The central conflict has Cristi questioning the morality of sending a young man to prison for smoking a little dope with his buddies, an act that goes largely unnoticed in the rest of Europe and a law that's likely to change soon in Romania. That's it for the plot synopsis, really.

However, Porumboiu constructs a rich cinematic tableau from this mundane beginning through expert filmmaking. This is about technique. The long takes, the elegant composition, the insistent lingering on the most inane moments in the young cop's life work together to create questions about everything from artistic symbolism to the veracity of law.

Police, Adjective is not your standard Hollywood police procedural. There are no car chases, shoot-outs, or explosions. In fact, nary a gun is even seen, much less heard. The climax takes place in the police captain's office as Cristi, his dimwit office mate, and the captain ruminate on the necessity of following the law even when it does not make sense by looking up words like "conscience," "law," "moral," and finally "police" in a dictionary.

This brilliant scene is funny stuff (in a quietly sardonic way) that also makes you think. And the desire to think about the film might be the most important thing to bring to this slow-paced but utterly satisfying flick. You should also consider bringing a dictionary.

The acting - like the dialogue, plot, and art direction - is stripped of artifice and the banal scenes are lovingly photographed by Marius Panduru. The composition is thoughtful and purposefully never lets you forget this is a movie, which is something formalist film should do.

I'm not apologizing for Porumboiu's style at all. I'm a huge fan of Yasujiro Ozu and Robert Bresson, filmmakers with a similar cinematic aesthetic. However, you should know what you're in for if you see Police, Adjective. And you should see it.

Police, Adjective is the official Romanian submission to this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, so you may want to check it out in case it gets nominated. It probably won't be in theaters long, and you know how fun it is to be the person who saw every film nominated in the foreign language category - or maybe that's just me.








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