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Police (DVD Review)

8 Oct, 2012 By: Mike Clark

$24.95 DVD
Not rated.
Stars Gerard Depardieu, Sophie Marceau. Sandrine Bonnaire.

What begins as a police procedural drama that’s halfway along the lines of, say, William Wyler’s Detective Story eventually evolves into something of a lonely guy or at least foiled-romance saga involving a garrulous cop played by Gerard Depardieu. This was back when the actor wasn’t the all-out corpulent GD of today but merely one somewhat fleshy dude.

Director Maurice Pialat’s “Parisian” opens with an interrogation: Mangin, the widowed cop that Depardieu plays, is grilling various hoods in a Tunisian drug ring and is having a grand old time searching for inconsistencies in the responses of one participant who’d just as soon be anywhere else in the city but does seem to be a pro when it comes to blowing smoke. The gang isn’t exactly big time but definitely is capable of mischief that must be abated, and amid Mangin’s professional travels he comes across the pouty Arab girlfriend of one member played by Sophie Marceau — who, speaking of fleshy, comes equipped with substantially more baby fat than she displayed during a Hollywood launch that never got off the ground a decade later (her casting as Princess Isabelle in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, or as first female Bond villain Elektra King in The World Is Not Enough being obvious exceptions). The actress deserved better not only because she not only became better looking with the years but also because she was very good playing off charismatic actors like Depardieu and Gibson. Her scenes here with the former have a stirring and mutually lost-soul dimension.

This is, in fact, a movie where you end up wondering what the future will hold for its characters after the end credits roll, and these would include the smiling prostitute of 19 played by Sandrine Bonnaire with the same laissez-faire attitude toward sexuality she displayed in Pialat’s masterpiece of wayward teen-dom A Nos Amour, which merited all-out deluxe Criterion treatment a few years back. Bonnaire’s character is already dubious about the concept of romance in her life or future, an attitude to which Mangrin displays shock that’s probably of the half-kidding variety but which likely gets to him nonetheless. With Marceau’s “Noria” character, he enjoys a few fleetingly satisfactory (for both) gropings — even in the police station — but you don’t sense that these are two people who are going to be someday enjoying French bread and wine in the country out of some idyllic Jean Renoir movie. For one thing, Noria is eventually thought by most (including her own lawyer) to have ripped off some of the drug trafficker money, and this continues the disharmony that prevails throughout the entire movie despite an occasional funny line or the breeziness with which Bonnaire’s wild thing plies her trade.

There’s also a police woman played by Pacale Rocard, who is comely enough here to have been a main attraction in most movies — especially if Mangrin could keep his eyes from roaming out if the office. Police’s screenwriter was Catherine Breillat (Criterion’s Fat Girl), who by this time had already begun to direct films sometimes known for their sexually provocative slants. New Yorker picked up Police and distributed it in ’86 about a year after the French release, with a springboard bounce from the New York Film Festival. The NYFF press screening is where I first saw it, and I recall the it being fairly well received without being one of those movies you wrote home to mom about. But given Depardieu’s femme foils here, one could have easily written home to dad, and with it, Olive Films certainly has some alternative fare with to its more Hollywood-ized releases of the past few months, which included two Fess Parker Westerns and a “Grizzly” with Clint Walker.

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