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Interview: Corneliu Porumboiu

Misplaced modifier: the director defines Police, Adjective
By PETER KEOUGH  |  January 21, 2010

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Review: Police, Adjective. By Gerald Peary.
The 20th anniversary of the Romanian Revolution, in which anti-Communists ousted dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, occurred last December 22. It's a date the young Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu commemorated in his black-comic 12:08 East of Bucharest — sort of. That film ends with three guys in a television studio discussing the meaning of the word "revolution," and what might or might not have happened in their small town on that date. Theirs might be the worst TV talk show in broadcasting history.

Porumboiu won the Camera d'or at Cannes 2006 for that film, his first feature. For his second, which won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes last year and is the current Romanian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, he has taken his uncertainty principle to that popular genre the police thriller. Set in the same small town where East of Bucharest took place, Police, Adjective is about a detective who's assigned to bust a teenager for smoking dope. The cop has a crisis of conscience. But what is a "conscience?" The climax gives us three guys in a room with a dictionary. Like the title, the story doesn't involve many verbs. But it might be one of the funniest and saddest films you'll see all year.

I've heard that you've described this film as an "anti-policier" — a film made up of all the bits that an actualpolicier cuts out.
That's correct. It's an action film without action. It's an inaction film. I was thinking about police movies, and when I was doing the documentation for this one and writing the first draft, I was looking at classical crime stories, classical policiers, and I chose to focus on the waiting parts — the things you're not used to seeing in classic movies. I cut out all the action.

Your previous film explored the meaning of the word "revolution." In this film, the word is "conscience." Is it fair to say you're preoccupied with language?
I think in both of them, I was trying to make a contrast between the word and the moment or thing that the word is describing. Both of them also concern time, the rhythm of the story, and how to describe a certain type of chaos. [In Police, Adjective,] I'd show an almost silent day when the detective is alone, or when he's interacting with other people, and then I'd film the report he would write at the end of the day, to show that what he saw was important. I was thinking that this was a movie about language, about someone who has to make this kind of report every day, reports that are written in a very strict form, and how, in the end, that could change the way he saw the action. The report shows his point of view, and how it was shaped to fit this bureaucratic way of looking at things.

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