Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Corneliu Porumboiu's POLICE, ADJECTIVE gets a theatrical/On-Demand run


A very good, very subtle, and finally very powerful movie, POLICE, ADJECTIVE by Romanian filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu (shown below), which was part of this year's New York Film Festival, makes its theatrical & On Demand debut now. It's slow -- but, for me, never uninter-
esting because the moral question at its center becomes obvious early on, and once it grabs you, everything in the film is

then directed toward that question and/or spins off from it: What is the right, the best, thing to do for everyone concerned in this particular situation in which a student is smoking an illegal substance but is not dealing in its trade.

The person most involved in handling this situation is the police detective assigned to trail the student. We see him at work, in the field and at home with his wife, parrying with his co-workers and his bosses, trying to convince the latter of the importance of not dealing too harshly with this young man and -- in the process -- destroying his life. The detective is not a happy camper.

I was not as taken with Porumboiu's earlier 12:08 East of Bucharest as were some (it proved a little heavy-handed for me), but I found his new film remarkable: quiet and contained, full of surprise and the steady unfolding of a view of society -- Romanian -- still trapped in and enrapt with its fascist tendencies (and why not? The film is set in and around a police department). The country and its society also remain, the movie makes clear, a slave to the old laziness of the Communism work ethic, despite Romania's slowly opening up to more western, "democratic" mores.

A police procedural-cum-moral dilemma in which very little happens but what does counts for much, the film is so beautifully photo-
graphed that viewing it puts you in an almost constant state of pleasure (the crisp cinematography by Marius Panduru makes the absolute most of color, wherever it can be found). The acting by lead Dragos Bucur, above left, and Irina Saulescu (above, right) who plays his wife, as well as by Vlad Ivanov (the abortionist from 4 months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days who here plays the man in charge) is terrific, and Porumpoiu's dialog is spare until it is needed. At that point you'll want to stop and hit the rewind button, so pointed yet simultaneously on-target and obfuscatory the words become. You may also want to scream rebuttals at the screen.

Police, Adjective uses words and their "meaning," as well as their "power," in a manner I have not seen another movie manage. Like The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (though not as encompassing nor enlarging a film), it's another top-of-the-line movie from Romania.

Opening theatrically at the IFC Center tomorrow, December 23, it is concurrently screening On-Demand via local TV reception providers in various locations. View its complete release schedule here.

2 comments:

GHJ - said...

I fully agree with you here, Jim. Still culminating my own thoughts and will have a review later in the month. I think I need to see it again. Every word and movement has a distinct purpose, which almost never happens this day and age.

James van Maanen, said...

Glad to hear it, Glenn. And I will look forward to your review, which I suspect will be more thoughtful. I'd like to see this one again, too -- if only to check out the "movement" you mention. I was more aware of the words, and so I may have not paid enough attention to those movements.