Corneliu PoromboiuPolice, Adjective

Written, Produced & Directed by Corneliu Poromboiu. Released by IFC Films Romanian with English subtitles Romania. 113 min. Not Rated. With Dragos Bucur, Vlad Ivanov, Irina Saulescu & Ivan Stoica   

Dates and Venue 29 Jan - 4 Feb | Pacific Cinematheque, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Writer/director Corneliu Porumboiu, part of the recent Romanian film renaissance, tries his hand again after his success with his witty dark comedy, 12:08, East of Bucharest (2006). In this film, Poromboiu appears to have a fetish for linguistics. Maybe his wife, just like the wife of the film's protagonist, is a language teacher obsessed in figures of speech, grammar, and the Romanian Academy of Language. In fact, the film's theme is language and the dictionary, you could immediaely guess from the title with the use of the word "adjective". In fact, throughout the film, we see lessons in the Romanian language with the use of a dictionary, and it is the dictionary that finally convinces our anti-hero to do what he has to do at the end of the film.

Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco is perhaps the influence of many Romanian directors, and 35-year old Poromboiu must have picked up this absurdist mode more so from filmmaker Lucian Pintilie, who did black political satires in the early ’90s.However, in this film, Porumboiu doesn't quite hit the mark. There's just too much waste in footage of the main protagonist, Cristi, a policeman (Dragos Bucur) staking out joints and following three teenagers who smoke weed. He tries to convince his superiors that this isn't a big thing, and if they're put to jail, it'll bother his conscience. Besides, he says, in other countries, you can smoke weed in public.

Then comes the whole dialectic of what is the law on drugs in Romania , the definition of conscience, what is the meaning of morality, what is the definition of police, etc. This "absurd" dialogue takes place between him and his boss, the police captain, who, with the help of the dictionary of the Romanian Academy of Language, convinces him finally of his duty as a police officer.

Despite the fact that it won the Jury Award in the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, I didn't find anything funny or outstanding in Poromboiu's film. The movie dragged a lot, and it gave me the impression that the filmmaker was also bored making the film, as though like Cristi the policeman who dislikes his work as he’s stuck tailing a teenager who may (or may not) be dealing drugs, he too is getting tired of making films of this genre.

© 2010 Ed Farolan