Dave's Rating:


"Police Academy 12: Paperwork"

Who's In It: Dragos Bucur, Vlad Ivanov

The Basics: Think it would be nonstop thrills to be a detective and go on stakeouts? That's because you haven't yet witnessed this oddly funny Romanian police procedural that's all about the most mundane procedures. Its plot revolves around an officer trailing a teenager suspected of using and selling hashish. The detective walks. He walks some more. He runs a check on a car. He stares. He walks. Eats a meal in real time. He observes his suspects standing around. He goes to the office and deals with paperwork. He writes reports. And through it all he quietly discusses, with anyone who'll listen, and with increasingly abstract hilarity, the nature of laws, meanings of words, names and processes. That's the "adjective" part of the weirdest-titled film of 2009.

What's The Deal: This is a brilliant comedy that acts like it's not one: exacting, deadpan and bone-dry. It silently erases everything you think a police drama is supposed to be and replaces it with finely tuned observations about morality and the meaning of everyday stuff, from pop songs to crime to tourism to the role of government in a dreary Eastern European state. And its fixed-camera, real-time, anti-action aesthetic forces you to make constant decisions about what's important to look at on screen. Like, is that dog something? That graffiti? Why isn't anyone fixing that torn-up street? Why are they pursuing a high school student who displays all the criminal tendencies of Hannah Montana (okay, if she smoked weed, but still)? And if nothing else, you'll leave with a better understanding of a really desolate strain of Romanian humor.

For Example: After the boss wonders aloud why the case is taking so long and states that the cop shouldn't be wasting so much time on it, the cop argues that the case is irrelevant and they shouldn't be wasting so much time on it ("The law is going to change soon." "No, it's not." And back and forth like that.) Then he goes on another stakeout, and the audience gets to read police reports in real time, as the camera pans down the paper. Here's an excerpt: On the way, the suspect met nobody, did not use his mobile phone and smoked a single cigarette, which I checked, but which was not of relevance to this case. After that, they look up words in the dictionary and ask passersby what they think the word "conscience" means. Did I mention this movie requires you to patiently recalibrate your expectations of what should and should not be covered in a crime drama?

If This Sounds Awesome (And, Really, It Is) Then You Should Also Check Out: Other recent examples of the "New Romanian Cinema," like 12:08 East of Bucharest (from this film's director, Corneliu Porumboiu), the harrowing abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and, my personal favorite, the emergency-room nightmare-comedy The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.


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