In 12:08 East of Bucharest and now Police, Adjective, Romanian filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu puts language on stage as he stakes out his territory: the difficulties and dangers of pinning things down and talking things out when the present seems so lightly draped over the past. In Porumboiu’s boomerang-arced second film laced with dry humor, a young plainclothes detective is tasked with observing and busting some high schoolers on minor drug offenses. But he finds it hard to go through with it and harder still to rebuff his chief’s reactionary sophistry. At home: soup and a sweetly passive-aggressive wife obsessed with the schmaltzy tunes that keep cropping up in the recent Romanian wave.
Stonewalled by shrugging bureaucrats, the conscientious cop, Cristi (heavy-browed Dragos Bucur), is quietly stubborn, like some ironic alternative to the American loose-cannon type. His surveillance of the hash-smokers, which is shot in sometime real-time, takes place in bleak run-down locales that turn the screen into sections of gray; his reports are shown in All the President’s Men close-up. All this is praxis prelude to the thrilling climax by dictionary: a near-ten-minute debate between Cristi and his superior (Vlad Ivanov, also leveraging ground as the abortionist in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days).
Porumboiu, who studied management, makes a double drama out of having a deviously intelligent boss and watching reality bent in his hands through words. His film is more unnerving and universal in appeal than mere post-bloc satire, and surges past the purposefulness of its premise.
Opens December 23