Archive for November, 2011
Julie Delpy has little left to prove : an accomplished actress, screenwriter, director, producer, singer… With four directorial features under her belt (“Two days in New York” following “Paris” is rumouredly already a wrap), she seems to have signed here a pure pleasure project.
Skylab is a sweet, wistful (autobiographical?) evocation of a family gathering on the occasion of the matriarch’s (Bernadette Lafont) 67th birthday in 1979. This joyful company’s mood and movements follow Britanny’s climactic temperament as arguments escalate and deescalate between sunny breaks with the kind of harmless intensity that results from the mix of affection and exasperation that only a family can withstand. The gentle, aging lunatics, the political antics and sexual hilarities perhaps hint, with a kind of winsome disinhibition, to the generation’s dispirited malaise : the realization of its victories vanishing, of its purpose lost, of its time gone. The generational worldweariness that would usher in the 80’s is in fact embodied in the precocious, bespectacled pre-teen daughter (Lou Alvarez), whose bittersweet coming of age brings some sobering reflection and responsibility to the casual frivolity of her parents’ generation (Delpy and the wonderfully chameleonic Eric Elmosnino).
Polisse is an uncompromising, socially stirring and angst-ridden punch in the gut. It chronicles the harrowing cases that everyday come through the office of the juvenile protection brigade, the truly undersung heroes of the French police system. Inspired by a documentary, Maïwenn Le Besco directs an unflinching professional portrait and follows the members of this brigade on the job with remarkably tough honesty, as well as off the job, with less sobriety, more melodrama and sentimental cliché. The difficult emotion comes naturally from the terrible challenges these officers face every day : the tightrope walking over an emotionally grey area, the hierarchical wrestling matches, exasperating bureaucratic pitfalls, and their total bafflement in the face of incomprehensible acts of monstrosity. Very loosely, even frantically structured, the film moves more like a documentary (though the director’s self casting as a fly-on-the-wall photograph – besides adding a predictable love-interest for Joeystarr’s character [whose screen magnetism is undeniable and performance admittedly blew me away] – is a mise en abîme that unnecessarily pseudo-intellectualizes a film that functions most powerfully at a cinéma-vérité gut level rather than meta-commentary).
The film is in fact perhaps too ambitious, stretched thin in too many dramatically intense directions. Maïwenn forces an intimate connection with each member of a huge ensemble cast within a far too concentrated time period and at a wildly intense pace. The tone therefore continuously shifts suddenly without explanation in a collage of character conflicts and romances. There just isn’t enough room to provide these characters with personal lives of credible depth. The result: an office dispute escalates off key into a fit of baffling hysterics, and blossoming romances line up cringingly bad seduction clichés.
In short, the trauma of the cases that make up the days of these officers is enough drama. The rest reads like petty soap opera material. Still Maïwenn’s heart and head are in the right place, and considering the seriousness and urgency of her purpose, the character shortcomings should not be held against her. Polisse is a film that must imperatively be seen. TRAILER.