Film Review: Polisse (2011)
Cop drama Polisse, is the third film by French director Maïwenn, it has finally arrived a year after debuting in Cannes, and winning the Jury Prize. Maïwenn was inspired to make Polisse after watching a documentary about officers in the CPU (Parisian Child Protection Unit), a branch of the police that specialises in dealing with child abuse. To get a real insight Maïwenn did her own first-hand research, interning with a police unit before putting pen to paper with writer Emmanuelle Bercot, who also has a part in the film. Even with this first hand experience, the film feels improvisatory, the sequences linked mainly by characters who continually resurfaces and it takes time for us to recognise their story. Maïwenn’s has abrupt an unsentimental approach to the subject, its loud, in your face and has a relentless energy with the a motions running all over the place barely giving us time to digest them. Given the obvious high stakes, Maïwenn plays it quite beautifully by allowing the key moment that extra time to reach their peak, making it a compassionate piece that highlights the humanity of its protectors, perpetrators, and victims.
The cases we see include molestation, exploitation, heartbreaking poverty are all gripping, but the main focus are the officers, and for the most part, this gives a really unsettling but very realistic look into how these people deal with the worst of humanity. Sometime the officers play situations a bit blasé, sometimes even mocking, sometimes completely furious, and sometimes they are destroyed. The unit and myself get a real sense of nausea by heartbreaking and inconsolable screams of a young boy who is being surrendered to a shelter by his mother so he won’t have to live on the street with her. Moments late we are thrown to the other end of the spectrum as the officers have a chuckle at a girl who to get her mobile phone back agreed to give a group of boys oral sex. The film also strays, heavy handedly into the personal lives of the officers. An officers wife of Arab descent, releases a tirade towards a Muslim father against Islamic patriarchy which felt a bit forced and completely unnecessary.
Maïwenn preference for realism is commendable and covers the topic by relying on documentary techniques but working with trained actors and a script, but you can see that she relies on improvisation from the real CPU officers. The film was shot on handheld cameras, a choice that fits the story very well giving it an unforgettable sense of realism. Final credit must go to the Editors, Maïwenn left them with over 150 hours of footage to compile a story with, and they have shaped an impressive film and along with the director, the final product is a subtlety crafted creating a cruel, chaotic reality.
Stars: Karin Viard, Joey Starr and Marina Foïs
Production Co: Les Productions du Trésor, arte France Cinéma, Mars Distribution