Police, Adjective

109 minutes

For his second feature, Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu proposes a sort of grammatical procedural, about a young cop (Dragos Bucur) whose moral qualms about busting a high school student using marijuana, and the fate of said student, hinge on the dictionary definitions of a few key words. Working with the by now standard formula of modern Romanian cinema – long takes, absence of score, naturalistic framing -, Police, Adjective stretches it to almost breaking point in the service of a meticulously presented, progressively more disquieting deadpan satire of Kafkian bureaucracy. It's a reasonably taut highwire act; the trick lies in the precise dosage of the length of each plan, here often impossibly long takes where the camera centers on a character and only moves at specific moments, then lets the scene play out for as long as it's needed for the viewer to take in fully what is really happening.

     It's worthwhile making a comparison to Jacques Tati's precision mechanics, since a lot of what goes on here is related to that type of slow-burn humour, and there's a sense of bungling Keystone Kops biting off more that they can chew; but mr. Porumboiu is working within a more traditionally dramatic narrative while moving away from the more openly comedic take of his previous 12:08 East of Bucharest. In this case, the director is harnessing that precision as a vise that underlines the anxiety of both his character and the spectator, as the closer the investigation gets to breaking the case it also gets closer to being shut down – suggesting simultaneously a conspiratorial take on the all-powerful past of the Communist state and the sense that Romania remains mired in a past while being dragged kicking and screaming into the future. Hilarious and nerve-wracking at the same time, Police, Adjective is a remarkable movie that pushes mr. Porumboiu into the “big leagues” of Romanian cinema alongside Cristi Puiu and Cristian Mungiu.

Starring Dragos Bucur, Vlad Ivanov.
     Directed and written by Corneliu Porumboiu; director of photography (colour, processing by Kodak Cinelabs Romania), Marius Panduru; production designer, Mihaela Poenaru; costume designer, Georgiana Bostan; film editor, Roxana Szel.
     A 42KM Film presentation/production, with the support of the Romanian Film Centre, in association with Racova and Raza Studio, with the participation of HBO Romania. (World sales, Coach 14.)
     Screened: Curtas Vila do Conde 2011, In Focus sidebar, Teatro Municipal de Vila do Conde, July 9th 2011.


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