Friday, February 05, 2016
The Thin Blue Line: Maurice Pialat's "Police"
Young Noria (Marceau) falls into Mangin's (Depardieu) line of sight when the boyfriend she's living with is arrested after an informant gives Mangin his name as a go-between for more heavy people in Marseille. Hours of questioning yields nothing for Mangin and his aggressive unit. If anything, a bitter animosity grows between the two. Trained well, Noria denies everything... even when the cops play her voice on a recorded message.
After this long set-up, "Police" jumps several months with a single cut. Free of her charges (although the boyfriend still in jail), Noria and Mangin have become a loose couple, going out on the town together where the line between good and bad become awfully blurred. Mangin's friend, Lambert (Richard Ancinina), is the lawyer for the accused. As we see, he obviously knows more than the cops. Also in tow is young Lydie (Sandrine Bonnaire), a prostitute whose had relations with both men. The whole group mingle and socialize as if there are no borders between them, and if anything, "Police" is a film about denying strict rules and codes. It doesn't play by the rules of cop, criminal, accessory or prostitute because, in this second half, those biases wash away and "Police" settles on the confused and awkward relationship developing between Mangin and Noria. Is she using him for his authority? Is Mangin using her to set some wicked trap and bring closure to the big case that seemingly slipped through his fingers? It's as if Pialat became supremely bored with the elaborate police film he originally intended to make and set loose on a completely different path about life. Regardless, both types of film work here.
Just now beginning to explore the multi-faceted work of Pialat (having been exposed to and loving his "Van Gogh" some years ago), "Police" felt like the most mainstream place to begin. Instead, its a wonderful shock when a film plays with expectations so vividly. It's messy and complicated and even wildly romantic. Just watch how tense Pialat makes 'quickie' sex in a police station. And if all that's not enough, the film ends on such a perfect beat that one just may forget it's a police film at all, leaving you breathless and knocked out, gasping for understanding the way Depardieu does.