Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Whistlers

Back "at" the Virtual Coolidge Corner Theatre last night, planning for a double feature but not realizing that the second half would be fairly long. That will be tonight's entertainment, as it's scheduled to be around for longer than this one. It's worth noting that Magnolia is donating the entirety of your virtual ticket sale to the Coolidge (or, if you live in some other metropolitan area, the local independent cinema of your choice), so that's a pretty good way to help keep them going while getting an hour and a half of decent entertainment.

I must admit, the way I thought about the movie and wrote the review shifted more than a little bit when I decided to go and see what else I'd written about the director's previous films, particularly his previous film about cops and crime and surveillance, and saw that star Vlad Ivanov was also in Police, Adjective - and suddenly his supervisor's reference to his being "the boss" back when something else happened in another city clicked into place. It's not a perfect connection - Sabin Tambrea would in that case be playing a character played by someone else in the previous movie, and it's a bit odd that the lead characters in both movies are both named "Cristi", although Ivanov's character was apparently only given a surname in Police, Adjective (which is mentioned here). That the two are potentially in the same continuity isn't actually important, in that I got through it without confusion despite there being no references, and may just be a fun easter egg for those who saw the two ten years apart to pick up on.

Still, I can't exactly un-see the connection now that I've seen it, and now I am tempted to go back and re-watch to see just to what extent it makes sense as this movie's backstory, and whether or not it should color how I view this one - did it enhance what disappointment I felt compared to the clever bits I like, make me wish that things that had been alluded to was given more time, or anything else?

Well, it's not like we don't have time.

La Gomera (The Whistlers)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 28 March 2020 in Jay's Living Room (Coolidge Corner Theatre Virtual Screening Room, Vimeo)

For all that some rightly complain about filmmakers being pigeonholed, there are times when filmmakers seem to do it to themselves. Take The Whistlers, which has a clever premise for a heist, a nice cast, and an intriguingly twisted network of surveillance and corruption - and a writer/director in Corneliu Porumboiu who seemingly can't be satisfied to just make an entertaining genre movie. He acknowledges their appeal, references them, and otherwise sets up bits of meta-commentary, but doesn't capture the actual excitement of such movies.

Which is odd, because while Porumboiu's previous films have fit comfortably into art-house niches - they are restrained and often built around people talking dispassionately, somewhere between arch and dry - they have seldom been dull. His work has always had a sly wit and a way of circling around the point he was looking to make like a tiger ready to pounce before methodically disassembling their prey. The Whistlers occasionally drops hints that it's a sequel to one of those movies - Police, Adjective is referenced in a couple of oblique ways - although it's more something to investigate afterward than necessary prerequisite.

This one opens with Inspector Cristi Anghelache (Vlad Ivanov) arriving at La Gomera in the Canary Islands, there to meet Gilda (Catrinel Marlon) and learn the local "whistling language", which will play a part in Gilda's scheme to break her partner Zsolt (Sabin Tambrea) out of prison. She warns Cristi that what went on back in Bucharest was just her playing for the surveillance cameras. And there were plenty there, as Cristi did his best to work both sides while investigating how Zsolt was apparently using his mattress factory to launder drug money - though who isn't, as Zsolt was caught in part by lead detective Magda (Rodica Lazar) encouraging Cristi and partner Alin (George Pistereanu) to plant evidence.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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