Police, Adjective

I know a movie is in trouble when its press notes tell me more about the story than the film itself.  Someone is going to have to explain how the new Romanian film “Police, Adjective” arrives critically acclaimed at the IFC Center, and uptown at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, on December 23.  It won the Un Certain Regard jury prize at the Cannes International Festival in 2009, the FIPRESCI international critics’ prize and screened at both the Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival in 2009.  Is it just that I am not cinematic enough to get “it,” whatever “it” might be?  I sense a payoff.

Movies about police work usually just show us the “good” parts: chases, arrests and shootouts.  In real life police work can involve lots of dull surveillance, a fact that “Police, Adjective” emphasizes to a fault.  In contrast, a film like “The French Connection” (1971) makes police surveillance compelling through its larger than life characters engaged in “cat and mouse” games with potentially big time drug dealers.

In “Police, Adjective” Cristi (Dragos Bucur), an unprepossessing policeman follows a high school student suspected of offering hashish to two school mates.  A high school kid giving out pot?  Not exactly a premise to keep one on the edge of one’s seat.  Add to this the fact that the story is not clear.  The latter is due partly to the fact that I was practically falling asleep after being subjected to one excruciatingly long, dull surveillance scene after another, shot mostly in unbroken takes that are mercilessly endless.  We also see long takes of Cristi’s domestic life with his girlfriend which give us a sense of their relationship and are actually more interesting than the police work itself.

According to the press notes “Police, Adjective” has to do with word definitions and Cristi not wanting to arrest a young man for doing something irresponsible.  Then why doesn’t Cristi go catch a bank robber?  It would be infinitely more interesting and exciting.

Police, Adjective, director Corneliu Porumboiu,

IFC Films, 113 minutes, not rated


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on December 18, 2009, in What were they thinking?. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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