Title: Polisse

Sundance Selects

Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten

Grade: B+

Director: Maïwenn

Screenwriter: Maïwenn, Emmanuelle Bercot

Cast: Karin Viard, Joey Starr, Marina Foïs, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Maïwenn, Karole Rocher

Screened at: Broadway, NYC, 4/10/12

Opens: May 18, 2012

When Alain Attal, the director of “Polisse,” states that “the subject matter was totally new and had never been approached in film,” he knows whereof he speaks. “Polisse” is a cop drama like no other. Maïwenn, who takes a major role, directs and co-wrote the script with Emmanuelle Bercot, with a focus on a segment of the Paris police. The organization is known as CPU, or Children’s Protection Unit, an ensemble looked down upon by “real” gendarmes in the same way that Wall Street financiers may looks down on high-school teachers—not realizing that the real work of society is done by teachers and, well, the CPU. After all, what’s more important than safeguarding and nurturing the future of one’s country?

The snappy dialogue makes us in the audience quite familiar with this Parisian unit which appear to spend as much time together as firefighters here in New York. They share a table at breakfast, they chat about one another’s love life or lack of same, they go together for drinks at the end of the shift and even dance wildly as though to cast off the stress of working with some of society’s scuzziest people.

The scuz and pervs under Maïwenn’s lenses include one handsome fellow who thinks nothing of incest with his progeny, a guy with enough influence among the higher-ups that he freely talks to the police about his nefarious activities to such an extent that one cop flattens him—knocks him right off his chair. An Algerian living in Paris is picked up for something that would seem quite normal just across the Mediterranean: he is arranging a marriage for his 14-year-old daughter, which the French regard as rape. One of the officers is so infuriated that she grabs a Koran and bellows, “Show me in the Koran” where it’s right to arrange a union such as that. A teacher of gymnastics is caught fondling one of his good-looking youthful charges in a toilet stall. A group of Romanians is nailed for pulling a modern Fagin: teaching their charges to fill their pockets with other people’s Euros. A woman tearfully and with a feeling of humiliation reports that her husband has been doing improper things with their child. An African émigré with halting French who lives on the streets reports to the station with her ten-year-old boy asking the CPU to find a warm shelter for him so he “doesn’t turn out like me.”

In fact that pervs come at us in such numbers and with such rapidity that we’re not surprised that these overworked cops often have violent arguments with one another, with one of them (a manhater) suddenly and without much thought committing suicide in front of everyone.

Maïwenn, who has a child from her affair with Luc Besson, frequently acts in her own movies such as in “Le bal des actrices,” a story in which her character learns that actresses are neurotic and needful of love (surprise!). She balances the straight police work with romance and envy. The leading love is between Melissa (Maïwenn), a repressed photographer who looks dorky with a pair of fake glasses and uptight hairdo, and Fred (Joey Starr, real name Didier Morville) who like Ice Cube in our own country is a rapper-turned-actor, to whom she is attracted though they are from different cultures. She prefers Fred to her own rich husband (Frédéric Pierrot) in part because she had been born poor and is advised by Fred to shed her artificial spectacles and remember to her roots. Her frog-to-princess morph is something to behold—and all because one of my own gender has liberated her.

The title is based on a misspelling of the word “police” by the director’s young son.

While the action is done in a fast-paced documentary style, the audience is virtually challenged to understand the French since the skinny white subtitles become unreadable against any light background. If there’s one thing the Americans do better than the Europeans, it’s those necessary subtitles. Hey Europe! Keep knocking out films without decent lettering and you’ll drive even the one percent of Americans who see foreign language movies into becoming even more provincial.

Unrated. 127 minutes (c) 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B

Acting – B+

Technical – B-

Overall – B+

Polisse Movie

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