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Detective Work January 5, 2010

Posted by jeffclef in Uncategorized.
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A dictionary is the true offender in Corneliu Porumbiou’s latest feature, Police, Adjective (2009)

I’ve been enjoying a short streak of recent detective films. Over winter break, I saw Sherlock Holmes and Police, Adjective while catching up with old friends. I remember watching as a kid the animated series, Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, in which, as the souvenir DVD puts it, “a defrosted Holmes teams up with a robotic Watson and a female inspector Lestrade to stop the criminal rampage of Moriarty’s clone.” It’s as awesomely ridiculous as it sounds. So Ritchie’s film, with its testosterone-enhanced formula of fisticuffs and forbidden arts, doesn’t strike me as being that sacrilegious, though I do think that giving the title sleuth psychic powers does defeat the purpose of the genre. I won’t dwell any further on Sherlock, which has had its ample share of reviews. Its understated contemporary from Romania, on the other hand, could use some more press.

Corneliu’s Porumbiou’s Police, Adjective is the arthouse antithesis of Sherlock Holmes. There is no violence, sex, or special effects to draw in viewers—there may not even be a crime. Nonetheless, the film has captured numerous prizes at film festivals across the world including the 2009 Cannes. If not by the lure of the chase, by what?

Police unfolds against a featureless setting of a suburb in post-totalitarian Romania. Its hero is a young narc named Cristi (Dragos Bucur), on watch for a sixteen year old boy suspected of smoking pot. Cristi’s superiors, the hangovers of a more repressive regime, want to close the case with a sting operation, but the idea of arresting a child does not sit well with Cristi. The impasse between the individual and the state is, of course, nothing new. What distinguishes Police from other films is the way it presents that quandary, not through the ritual exaggeration of inner torment or outer violence, but as the title suggests, through clever dialogue exposing the contradictory meanings and ends of language. (more…)