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  Police Let's Be 'Avin' Yew
Year: 1985
Director: Maurice Pialat
Stars: Gérard Depardieu, Sophie Marceau, Richard Anconina, Pascale Rocard, Sandrine Bonnaire, Frank Karaoui, Jonathan Leïna, Jacques Mathou, Bernard Fuzellier, Bentahar Meaachou, Yann Dedet, Mohamed Ayari, Abdel Kader Touati, Jamil Bouarada, Bechir Idani
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Inspector Louis Mangin (Gérard Depardieu) is interviewing a suspect, Simon (Jonathan Leïna) who he believes has been involved with a Tunisian drugs smuggling ring along with his two brothers, but he is finding whatever charges he might have on the agenda difficult to stick as Simon is such an elusive character. Mangin knows he has been up to no good, his suspect knows he has been up to no good, all his colleagues are well aware of the same, but without the necessary evidence the inspector is at a loss so he relies on what he does best, a relentless questioning technique which can resort to violence if need be...

In fact the first five or six minutes of director Maurice Pialat's Police is taken up with Depardieu's interrogation of his suspect, which has the purpose of telling you all you need to know about the case for further examination in the rest of the film, and establishing his cop as one of those movie clichés, a man who does not play by the rules but gets results and so forth. The screenplay for this was penned by Catherine Breillat, no stranger to the director's chair herself, but aside from the basic plot Pialat decided he preferred to wing it through the shoot in the way he knew best, so there was an improvised air to much of what we saw.

Did this render the drama all the more realistic and convincing, or were you in for almost two hours of rambling conversations? The answer was very much a matter of taste, though what was notable was just how much talking Depardieu did, gabbing away nineteen to the dozen and barely letting his co-stars get a word in edgeways as if letting his mind race ahead of everyone else; at times it seemed as if those interrogations were going to be conducted rather one-sidedly. But for all those sequences where the cast appeared to be allowed to indulge themselves at Pialat's instruction, there was a plot to this, and it did not wrap itself up in the fashion that you might expect a police procedural to do.

So this wasn't actually a thriller at all; in spite of all the trappings of the genre right there, the film spiralled off in another direction, not in an outrageous way - a flying saucer didn't land on the Champs-Élysées or anything as the drama emerged from the drugs smuggling plot fairly organically. This was more like a romance, for the widower Mangin is always casting an eye around for eligible ladies, and at first we think he will charm a trainee inspector, Marie (Pascale Rocard), into a relationship, but what he actually does is fall in love with the girlfriend of Simon, Noria, played by Sophie Marceau in one of her earlier, but no less significant, roles. This woman finds it easy to cover up her tracks when she steals a bag stuffed with drugs money, so by all rights Mangin should be questioning her.

Which he does, but she dazzles him with her quick thinking, and soon they are romantically linked, though the point of this is less how the Arab community in France copes with their criminal elements and how this could give rise to racism in the authorities, and more personal than that, even intimate. The bigger picture is neglected after a while to make a comment on how two people who seem right for each other could make a relationship an impossibility simply because of those matches in their personality. Mangin is not above breaking the law to enforce it, and Noria is no less convinced that playing the rules of the underground against itself is the way forward for her, yet though they are passionate about their union, we can understand, as they do eventually, building their connection on half-truths and outright lies is never going to be fruitful. If you were happily watching the gritty police business, you may be let down by the romance which develops, and on the other hand if that bores you the second half may be more attractive. But both together? Hmm.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Maurice Pialat  (1925 - 2003)

This French writer and director, who started his career as a painter, was a difficult man by most accounts, and will probably be best remembered for such unsparing, verging-on-the-bleak 1980s films like Loulou, Police, À Nos Amours and Sous le Soleil du Satan, which won the Palme D'Or at Cannes.

 
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