My mother liked murder. The first thing she read in the Sunday papers was The Justice Story in The Daily News. It was impossible to enjoy watching a mystery on TV with her–five minutes in and she had infallibly apprehended the perpertrator.
Last summer, bleary with insomnia, I discovered in syndication, endless late-night episodes of a long-running CBS show about serial killers and FBI profilers, “Criminal Minds.” The members of the team, the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), are smart, workaholic, depressed, bound and devoted to each other (the atrocities that routinely fill their workdays make it hard for them to sustain outside relationships) and charismatic, good-looking (of course they are–this is American TV).
In one episode, “The Reckoning,” a character reveals grim numbers–there are 380,000 cases of child abuse annually in the United States; 1% goes to trial.
There are fewer cases in France–it’s a smaller country. Maïwenn’s riveting policier (based on actual cases not a crime novel), “Polisse,” embeds with a team of detectives working in the Child Protection Unit in Paris. The members of the unit are ferociously hard-working, in pain, funny, as close as family, and charismatic, good-looking (mais oui–this is a French film).
With cinematography so unobtrusive and a naturalistic (but actually tightly-written) script, the film almost seems like cinéma-vérité, immersed in the life of the unit and an entwined love story that develops between one of the detectives, Fred (played by famous French rapper, Joeystarr), and a photographer (played by the director), on long-term assignment to document the CPU.
Maïwenn used the title “Polisse” not just because “Police” was taken (by Maurice Pialat’s 1985 powerhouse, scripted by Catherine Breillat and starring Gerard Depardieu) but to evoke a child’s spelling error.
Growing up Le Besco must have been something extraordinary–odds are against it being coincidence that Maïwnn and her younger sister both became actor/writer/directors. And although Maiwenn’s sister, Isild Le Besco, is famously fair, there’s a startling resemblance between the two beauties, particularly when they smile–smiles seemingly shy, yet totally magnetic.
“Polisse” will open on Friday, May 18 in New York and Los Angeles with a national roll-out to follow. On Friday, May 25 it will be available nationwide on Sundance Selects’ video-on-demand.