Film Review: Polisse (2011)

Winner of the Jury Prize at last years Cannes Film Festival, it’s high time Polisse got distribution here on our fair shores, although I understand holding off until the bleakest weather had hit us, just to set the scene a little more.

Polisse is the latest film from French Actress/Director Maïwenn (who also director the very successful All About Actresses from MIFF ’09). The film follows the day to day lives of Paris’ Juvenile Protection Unit – a sort of child based SVU team of Parisian police – who have to deal with the best and worst of human behavior on a daily basis. Disturbingly based on real case files, the lines between fantasy and reality are beautifully blurred as we flies on the wall watch the carnage unfold.

Handled with such deft realism and cinematic beauty, it’s hard to think of Maïwenn as that blue chick from The Fifth Element. One also has to remind themselves that they’re watching a film, with actors, and not a documentary. Some of the crimes portrayed were so horrendous and the criminals unnervingly remorseless that it almost seems fantastic that the actors be speaking French. I’m much more used to French people in films making chocolate and running about leaving cryptic messages for the people they’re in love with but too shy to say anything to, and then singing and dancing and staring for a long time direct to camera.

So if you saw “French with English subtitles” and thought this would fit between Café De Flore and Romantics Anonymous then think again. The tension between the case workers is truly unimaginable and builds to intense conclusions. Although the cases are the focus of the film, you really start to feel for these people and what they have to see each day and deal with. The film becomes an extraordinary expose of the power skill of separating life from work, and how few people to which this skill occurs naturally. Polisse is at times humorous but did make me want to visit Paris less given the kind of intolerable crap these poor people had to deal with on a daily basis, and the weird behavior of its citizens. A greatly disturbing film.

Polisse is in Australian cinemas from 28 June through Curious Distribution.

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