Polisse – ***

Posted: June 11, 2012 in 2011, Drama, France, XXX



A child protection unit of the Paris police force is being followed by a photographer. It’s not really clear why she’s following the team, but she’s there and they have to deal with her. At first they fear she’s just taking pictures of when the unit is drinking, arguing, partying and laughing. But the longer she stays, the more she becomes part of the group and the more she witnesses the terrible situations this unit has to deal with.

Polisse won a price at last year’s Cannes festival and scored well in the French press and at the French box office, but didn’t get the same buzz outside of its native country. Too bad really, because it’s a great movie that needs a bigger audience. Not all is perfect though. I could have done without the predictable love story (between the photographer and one of the cops). And the dance floor scene takes way too long. But all in all, the stories and the acting kept me fascinated for more than 2 hours. And even longer as the surprise end makes sure that the movie won’t get out of your head any time soon.

The movie is set up as a faux-documentary. It’s all scripted, but it feels very real. It reminds you of Entre Les Murs, but adds elements of The Office as well. The Office? Yes. However confronting the stories about child abuse are, it’s told with a lot of humor and with a lot of focus on the interaction between the members of the team and their personal issues. I’m sure some uptight people won’t appreciate some of the humor the team members use to deal with certain cases. But it’s only natural. There’s this scene where a girl comes in explaining how she ended up in a group rape and the cops just burst out in laughter because of the way the girl tells her story. It’s a very uncomfortable scene. You know the cops shouldn’t laugh with (and at) the girl, but you also realize that some of these cops probably need to use laughter to hear stories from naive girls. The fact that young people don’t always realize how their behavior leads to abuse was quite shocking to me. Girls who undress in front of a webcam to get some extra money… 14 year olds telling the cops that it’s the 21st century and fucking and sucking is what 14-year-old kids do nowadays… It makes you silent… The movie shows all kinds of aspects of child protection and abuse and lets the audience judge.

The acting in this movie is great. A lot of ink was spilled on the performance of controversial rapper Joey Starr, who has a history of violence and insulting the police. But it’s like Ice T playing a cop in tv shows. In the end, hating the police and interpreting a police officer seem very compatible. Joey Starr is good, but he’s not the star of the movie. Karin Viard, Marina Fois, Jeremy Elkaim, Frederic Pierrot, Naidra Ayadi, … those should be the names to remember. The only bad acting in the movie is done by the director: Maiwenn Le Besco (as the photographer). She kind of admits it in the bonus interview on the dvd: this time it was touch acting in her own movie because her character in the movie is submissive, whereas her function as director is dominant. Wrong move there.

But watch it. Smile and get shocked at regular intervals. There are a lot of memorable scenes. The one with the kid needing to separate from his mother is still haunting me.

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