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Friday, 15 June 2012 00:00

'Polisse' hurtles through detectives’ lives

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Written by Diane Carson
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The noisy, fierce French film Polisse powerfully captures the world of a Parisian Child Protection Unit: camaraderie and conflicts, triumphs and tragedies. This crime drama focuses on the entire group of detectives who party as hard as they work in an episodic story with nonstop action sporting the energy of The Shield and the sobering perspective of The Wire.

Throughout its relentless two hours-plus, the brilliant ensemble cast ricochets from one situation to another: interrogations of pedophiles and statements from their victims, pursuit of molesters and pickpockets, attempts to recover abducted babies, raids on those exploiting minors. As one policeman says, "You try to take it one case at a time, but it takes its toll." Polisse shows the many ways the volatile squad tries sometimes successfully, sometimes not, to cope, including outbursts of anger as well as dark humor. The performances, the pace and the honesty give weight to Polisse's dramatization of a universal, tragic social problem.

 

Directed and co-written by Maïwenn with Emmanuelle Bercot, Maïwenn inserts herself into the group as Melissa, a photographer documenting the unit for the Ministry of the Interior. Our surrogate, she observes from the sidelines, struggling to keep up as the energetic camerawork and quick, sometimes abrupt, edits propel the multiple stories forward.

 

Despite the numerous cases and the large cast, the actors efficiently and effectively convey striking, three-dimensional, flawed characters about whom I repeatedly wanted to know more. The dense content could easily have provided a season of drama for a television series. As a snapshot of group dynamics, Polisse feels close to documentary truth. As a depiction of the enervating, soul numbing work with some of the most reprehensible criminals, it never blinks from the toll such exposure takes.

 

I first saw this film a year ago, and it continues to stay with me as though I saw it yesterday, so unconventional and compelling is its world. Last year Polisse won the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize, with kudos bestowed for the brilliant ensemble performances. It also won two César awards, the French equivalent of our Oscars, and received a dozen other César nominations. In French and some Italian, Arabic and Romanian, all with English subtitles. At a Landmark Theatre.
 

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