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Polisse [Francia] [Blu-ray]
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Film en version Director's Cut inédite au cinéma
Le quotidien des policiers de la BPM (Brigade de Protection des Mineurs) ce sont les gardes à vue de pédophiles, les arrestations de pickpockets mineurs mais aussi la pause déjeuner où l'on se raconte ses problèmes de couple , ce sont les auditions de parents maltraitants, les dépositions des enfants, les dérives de la sexualité chez les adolescents, mais aussi la solidarité entre collègues et les fous rires incontrôlables dans les moments les plus impensables , c'est savoir que le pire existe, et tenter de faire avec... Comment ces policiers parviennent-ils à trouver l'équilibre entre leurs vies privées et la réalité à laquelle ils sont confrontés, tous les jours ? Fred, l'écorché du groupe, aura du mal à supporter le regard de Melissa, mandatée par le ministère de l'intérieur pour réaliser un livre de photos sur cette brigade...
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Perhaps the least successful element is the director's own presence in the film. She plays a rich Parisian with influential friends who manage to get her an assignment shadowing the 'brigade de protection de mineurs' as a photographer. On the one hand, it's a necessary device that provides an outside eye view on the complex and delicate issues of law and procedure that come with dealing with these kind of cases, but her personal life, her relationship difficulties and her growing attachment to one of the officers (based on her real-life affair with Joeystarr) also proves to be an unwelcome distraction from the real issues that the film deals with. The personal lives of the close-knit squad, their methods of dealing with the exceptionally challenging nature of their work, the danger of bringing those pressures back home and the toll it takes on their personal and professional relationships also forms a large part of the make-up of the film and can tend to fall back on cliché, but it also proves to be a vital ingredient that you can't really do without either.
Where the film has to be judged a complete success in the way it puts across some very difficult and eye-opening episodes of a rather disturbing mature - inappropriate parental touching, sexual abuse, child prostitution, neglect, endangerment and abandonment are all covered in frank and explicit detail. You really wouldn't believe how many children, in just one district of Paris, are being subjected to such abuse, and when you extrapolate out to consider how prevalent it must be in other major metropolises it is a truly scary realisation. The tone may all over the place and sometimes of questionable taste (raising the question what the child performers made of such scenes) to the extent that you aren't sure if you really should be laughing at some of the rather shocking testimonies delivered straight-faced to the police officers - and you have to wonder at their reaction too - but in many ways it's probably a necessary release for the officers, and it's a necessary release from the unrelenting pace and tension of the film for the viewer also.
If some of the directorial choices and fluctuations in tone irritate, and the way the private lives of some of the police officers are treated is a little predictable and tedious, it all serves nonetheless to create a workable framework to get across a number of stories that are genuinely shocking and difficult to be witness to. What helps you relate to what you are watching however ultimately comes down to a few remarkable acting performances. French bad-boy rapper Joeystarr is a bit of a revelation as Fred and Marina Foïs is compelling as the girl most likely to crack, but it was Karin Viard who impressed me most. I was unconvinced about her casting here until one explosive scene (you'll know the one I mean when you see it), semi-improvised surely, where she is utterly real and living the role, reminding you about the real human cost to those involved in this work. Essentially, that's what's important, that's what Polisse is all about, and that's what stays with you long after you've viewed this remarkable film.
The workers are dedicated professionals, but that isn't to say they are patient or polite. Often more intimate with their peers than their lovers, they are more reliable parents than spouses. Plagued with alcoholism, depression, and neuroses, there is a sense that our heroes could explode at any time. In fact, many of them do, and their rants about the trials of their job are repetitive but believable. In spite of the numerous storylines, careful editing and naturalistic, sometimes unbearably raw, acting distinguishes the various characters.
This work is neither easy nor cut-and-dried. Suspects range from tearful to unrepentant, and the young victims sometimes don't want to be torn away from their abusers. Relationships between the officers are also intense and complicated, whether they are platonic friendships or romances, repressed or consummated. In spite of the harrowing subject matter, characters often mask their pain as humor, and there are rare moments of relief and pure jubilation.
While some plots are underdeveloped (this would have been a fascinating miniseries), the film manages to follow quite a few stories as well as touch on broader issues such as bureaucracy and cultural clashes. The conclusion is simultaneously inconclusive, heavy-handed, and effective, suggesting that these prickly workers struggle through life and sacrifice themselves for the children. Aided by hand-held camera work, the gripping Polisse feels real.
"Polisse" (2011 release from France; 128 min.) brings the story of a group of police men and women who make up the "Child Protection Unit" of the Paris Police. As the movie opens, we see one of them interview a little girl to try and assess if she has been abused by her father. The focus then shifts away from one specific case to another before we find out the ultimate outcome of each. Instead we witness the highs and lows of the CPU in its daily workings, the enormous stress under which they operate and the strain it causes on relationships bith at home and at work. Please note that there is no single overarching crime plot as such (and in that sense there really is nothing to divulge that would make it a plot spoiler).
Several comments: this movie not only stars Maiwenn (as the photographer commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior to follow the CPU) but she also directed and co-wrote the film, and in that sense this movie is a Maiwenn tour-de-force. The movie is paced superbly, with long periods of high tension but making sure things calm down once in a while. And this being a French movie, there is a LOT of talking in the movie. Some of the arguments that play out are at times borderline too intense (as when Iris thinks one of her colleagues is spending too much time on Facebook at her desk, and her colleague gives Iris a piece of her mind back). Not surprisingly this movie was well received upon its release at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival (and was up for a ton of the French Oscars). Bottom line: if you are in the mood for a quality foreign movie, "Polisse" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!