Monday, January 10, 2011

Politist, adjectiv (Police, Adjective) (2009)

Slow and monotonous, Politist, adjectiv is also a revealing snapshot of what’s involved in police surveillance work on a suspected delinquent. Undercover cop Cristi (Dragos Bucur) has been keeping a week-long surveillance of Victor (Radu Costina), a teenager suspected of drug dealing. His investigation yields little more than the suspect and his friends are guilty of smoking hashish. Cristi wants more time to trace the dealer, while his superiors want him to organize a sting and bust the kid.

(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)

police_adjectiveCristi pushes for more time because, as he states, “nowhere in Europe are you arrested for smoking a joint.” Soon, he says, the local law will change and he doesn’t want to ruin the kid’s life for smoking. Cristi is the opposite of a corrupt cop. He dislikes squealers, questioning why you would snitch on a friend.

Several very long scenes simulate Cristi’s experience. We are on surveillance with him and absorb his boredom, hunger and curiosity. Surveillance is lonely work and the ease with which you can tail someone and learn about her/him is eerily evident. The cinematography includes busy shots that bringing to mind Caché (2005). During an early surveillance scene, there’s a visual set-up of foreground versus background. The  group of three friends talk and smoke in the background; you cannot hear them. In the foreground, you see and hear three young boys playing futbol. They’re running, kicking the ball, making noise—providing an adornment to the silent background story. The colors pop—the greens, yellows, reds give the movie the feel of a 1970s indie film.

The story pokes at the bureaucracy of the legal system. He makes detailed notes on his progress but no one reads them. They don’t want him spending too long on this “simple” matter—just send the kid to jail; he’ll be out in 3.5 years. The characters engage in conversations that divert to make statements about unrelated topics. Some are social commentary, others offer comic relief in the form of cultural inside jokes and some are so random, it’s unclear why they’re included. The ending has Cristi in a philosophical debate against The Boss. He’s forced to make a choice and the movie ends abruptly (after all that). Cristi’s integrity and belief in his ethics keeps you interested even when little else is cooking.

Writer-Director: Corneliu Porumboiu

Country: Romania

Genre: Drama

Run time: 114 minutes

Scale: 3.5

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