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A comically smalltime hashish investigation becomes fertile ground for a minutely observed exploration of the routines and doubts of a young Romanian detective in Police, Adjective, the second film by 12:08 East of Bucharest director Corneliu Porumboiu, screening Saturday 10/17 in the Chicago International Film Festival.
In his first film Porumboiu tackled unreliable memories of the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, but here the surveillance uncovers nothing more insidious than a teen love triangle.
Porumboiu pushes deadpan minimalism to an extreme that will test the patience of some (a trend on display in a number of CIFF selections, many of which premiered at Cannes). But if you can hang, there's a payoff to this method, as the subtlest shifts in tone and detail crackle with unexpected humor, and the accumulation of sounds offers witty counterpoint to an often static image.
The seemingly obscure fascination of the detective's wife and boss with words and meanings gathers weight as the detective's moral reservations about the case come to a head, and a young democracy grapples in miniature with petty totalitarianism.
Police, Adjective screens Friday Oct. 17 at 8:30 PM at AMC River East, 322 E. Illinois. $12. Arrive well before showtime on account of long lines.
I couldn't find a trailer with English subtitles, but for what it's worth: