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“Polisse” features the defamation of sex as a non-sacred act in a heartless film about the Child Protection Unit of France.
Polisse was written, directed and starred Maïwenn and is based upon the brutal realities she witnessed and heard about while following around the CPU herself before deciding to write the movie.
As demoralizing and horrific as some of the cases handled by the unit are, it is even more unnerving to see the emphasis that the director chose to put on how genuinely horrible people the police officers in the unit are.
These are not your normal Benson and Stabler – these cops judge child molesters based on their looks, commit deviant sexual acts upon leaving work, find more joy in serving victims of a gang rape than a supposedly crazy mom and just come off as genuinely bad people.
Cramped into a small office space where privacy is impossible to come by, they get on top of each other emotionally when they aren’t taking their job as a joke. If you see Maïwenn’s film as realistic and happen to already dislike cops, chances are that your opinion of them won’t be positively influenced after watching this.
The plot of “Polisse” is wile by making you think on several occasions that a narrative story will evolve from what we are being shown, but this is not the case. In a world where busting narcotics rings is more important than saving children, a young, beautiful photographer named Melissa (played by Maïwenn) joins to the CPU to the displeasure of many of the members of the unit. She follows the rather volatile team around for a period of time, experiencing firsthand how unspeakable of a job these people have.
It supplants typical narrative simplicity with sporadic dialogue and unfathomably dark emotions that are much truer than what we are exposed to with American television, particularly procedural crime dramas like Law & Order. Joeystarr plays Fred, perhaps most unstable of all the characters, a deranged CPU cop who at first can’t stand the presence of a photographer following the unit. When he shows up physically on the screen, his acting is so excellent that mentally you have no idea what side of Fred we’re going to actually see.
The cops get over even the most gruesome and horrifying cases without ever really thinking about them twice. When a character cries, oftentimes it is so real it hurts. With it’s non-traditional editing, it rotates from one chapter about a character to another with a sufficient amount of fluency to actually make you care about the characters, however spread out and irregular the plot structure is.
“Polisse” has little to no feelings and a minimal sense of right or wrong – it tells the story the way auteur Maïwenn sees it. Could Maïwenn just be retelling her travels autobiographically, with herself in the movie represented by her Melissa character? Regardless of the answer to that question, this French film even feels at times as if it’s a revival of the Italian neorealist movement from the post WWII era, not emphasizing the emotions of characters within with close-ups and a general sense of pragmatism - displaying what is actually going on from a personal point of view. Either way, it's bold, and totally worth seeing - even if it's not expected to get a large release in this country.
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