Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 23rd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

War of the Words

filma2_policeIdeas, not action, drive wry Romanian cop drama ‘Police, Adjective'
If you expect a lot of shootouts and car chases from your police dramas, if you can't imagine a crime investigation that's not an action thriller, then Police, Adjective is not for you. Low-key in the extreme, this police drama from Romania unfolds at such a glacial pace, it often recalls those experimental Warhol movies of the '60s  which were all about the depiction of absolutely nothing. But viewers willing to pay attention and get into its slow, spare, real-life, real-time rhythm will discover a sly black comedy from director Corneliu Poromboiu, depending more on a gradually building intensity of ideas than conventional action.

In a monochromatic urban neighborhood in modern-day Bucharest, a young plainclothes police detective called Cristi (Dragos Bucur) is conducting a one-man stake-out operation. The object of his surveillance is a teenage boy who leaves the high school campus every afternoon with two friends, another boy and a girl, to smoke hashish in a little park behind the kindergarten.

Cristi can find no evidence that his suspect is selling the drugs he shares with his friends, nor can he discover where the hash is coming from. In the detective's viewpoint, those would be crimes worth pursuing; three kids standing around smoking hash is not. The only reason he's on this stake-out is that the other boy has informed to the cops, or "squealed," as Cristi puts it. ("Denounced," Cristi's boss corrects him.) Cristi suspects a conflict between the two friends over the girl.

His supervisors want Cristi to launch a sting operation and nab the kids in the act. Cristi doesn't want to do it; the minimum sentence is three and a half years in jail, which the detective thinks will ruin the boy's life for no good reason. Besides, he argues, Romania is the only country in Europe where a person can still go to jail simply for smoking dope in public. In another two or three years, he's convinced, it won't even be a crime in Bucharest any more.

Most of the film consists of Cristi skulking around the same two or three checkpoints every day: following the kids to school, lurking behind a totemic cinderblock tower to watch them smoke, harvesting the butts for evidence, writing up his reports. Shots are drawn out to an almost trancelike degree. Energy accrues only in the random, often absurdist conversations Cristi has with his fellow cops, his boss, and, in one extremely surreal encounter with his wife, a language teacher, whose obsession with a romantic ballad she plays over and over on her computer evolves into a debate about metaphor.

No, the tension in Poromboiu's film (and there's more than we expect) comes not from crimes committed—or lack thereof—but from Cristi's struggle with his own conscience over what he ought to do. And this struggle becomes more acute in terms of the subtle irony with which Poromboiu portrays the state of Romanian society in the aftermath of the Ceausescu  dictatorship. From the dull pea-green paint, busted metal lockers and outmoded CRT computer monitors inside the police station, to discussions on how to market Bucharest as a sexy destination to the free world, to the paternalistic hierarchy of Cristi's bosses determined to stick to the most narrow interpretation of the law possible to avoid any messy complications, Poromboiu depicts a society not yet capable of shaking off its tyrannical past and joining the 21st Century.

In most conventional crime stories, upholding the letter of the law is motivation enough for the story that follows. But this film delves into the ways letters can be remixed, words misinterpreted, how language itself can become a barrier, banishing personal "moral law" to the outer limits beyond the specific letter of the law.  (In one wry, oddly compelling climactic sequence, Cristi's chief calls for a dictionary to support his definition of what the department's legal responsibilities are.)

In a strict, bureaucratic society, the consequences of venturing into this gray zone of personal morality can be severe. But nothing evolves, Poromboiu suggests, until the consequences of ignoring one's personal moral law becomes even more unbearable.

POLICE, ADJECTIVE★★★

With  Dragos Bucur. Written and directed by Corneliu Poromboiu. An IFC release. Not rated. 113 minutes. In Romanian with English subtitles.

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.