With as much sprawl as attained ambition, Maïwenn’s “Polisse” is a busy, ragged, largely hand-held procedural mosaic following the workdays of police in the Parisian Child Protection Unit (Brigade de protection des mineurs de Paris). There’s a whiff of Sidney Lumet in the writer-director’s rapt attention to group dynamics of a police brigade, mingling vice and victims, gallows humor and stress, as well as sordid details of sexual abuse. Twining work life and personal life, stress is the order of the day, and the melodrama. Working from 150 hours of footage, the film feels rushed and headlong, for better and for worse: the form—and vivid performances—suggests an authenticity not always matched by the writing. Still, the sustained intensity impresses. Maïwenn casts herself, lanky, toothy, as a photographer embedded with the unit; her scene firing her first rounds at a shooting range has a tangy naturalism at odds with the other, more deliberate details. The ending also impresses: willful, pained, absurd, sudden, brutal and beautiful in its terrible finality. The spare, effective score, most notable in that scene, is by Stephen Warbeck (“Billy Elliot,” “Proof”). (Co-writer-director-actor Maïwenn Le Besco is the sister of French actor-director Isild Le Besco.) With Karin Viard, Marina Foïs, Emmanuelle Bercot, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Joeystarr, Sandrine Kiberlain. 127m. (Ray Pride)
“Polisse” opens Friday at Landmark Century.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.