NYFF ’09: Police, Adjective
Less is more in the sophomore feature by Cannes Camera d’or winner Corneliu Porumboiu (12:08 East of Bucharest), a filmmaker attentive, like his fellow under-40 countrymen Cristi Puiu and Cristian Mungiu, to the ironies of bureaucracy in post-totalitarian Romania. Police, Adjective is a slow-burning, intriguingly subtle tweak on the crime procedural. But the arc of this story, unlike most classic policiers, is almost bewilderingly straightforward: Cristi (Dragos Bucur), a young plainclothes cop in an unnamed provincial town, stakes out a high-schooler suspected of dealing hashish, yet is reluctant to haul him in on the testimony of a dubious informant. Despite its resemblance to a character-driven psychological suspense film, however bare-bones its approach—it’s no Zodiac, and doesn’t aspire to be—Police, Adjective is more a showcase for Porumboiu’s formal precision with urban anyspace and penchant for mordant, slice-of-life humor, its wry punchline ultimately hinging (as the title boldly hints) on the vagaries of language.