Police is the second collaboration between Maurice Pialat and Gérard Depardieu, after 1980’s Loulou, in which Isabelle Huppert falls for Depardieu’s moderately charming layabout.
One could imagine Depardieu’s character in Police, detective Louis Mangin, thinking he possessed that same kind of sexual charisma. Depardieu’s aggressive performance vaults way past macho swagger as he performs some capital-a Acting, full of weird tics and chair-slamming furor. This can feel at odds with Pialat’s improvisational style, especially loose here.
Still, it amplifies the distinct gap between Mangin’s perception of himself and his actual abilities. This is one of those cop stories in which the subject isn’t particularly adept at navigating his professional or his personal life. In the film’s first half, he toils spectacularly to break up a drug ring, hoping to pin a charge on a dealer’s girlfriend, Noria (Sophie Marceau). In the second half, after little has come of his efforts, he pursues a romantic relationship with her, ignoring potential red flags along the way.
Co-written by Catherine Breillat, who also had the original idea for the film, Police isn’t as overtly acrid as some of her work (Fat Girl) or as bracingly cynical as Pialat’s more major depictions of love gone bitter (À nos amours, We Won’t Grow Old Together). Its outlook is hardly sunny, but the film’s shaggy approach to narrative can mute the pessimism — Sandrine Bonnaire’s prostitute and Richard Anconina’s sleazy defense lawyer are less stinging depictions of society’s transactional nature than they are background color in a film that doesn’t quite transcend its status as a police procedural.
A police procedural directed by Maurice Pialat is still going to be more interesting than typical genre fare though. The interrogation scenes, like the one that opens the film, crackle with energy — Depardieu blusters his way through intimidating various witnesses, while Pialat allows the scenes to unfold at length. Is this top-tier Pialat? I doubt many would make that case. Is this Depardieu’s best work? No, unless your metric is boisterousness. Is it worthwhile? Definitely.
Olive Films upgrades their 2012 DVD release with a Blu-ray featuring a 1080p, 1.66:1 transfer. This represents a substantial upgrade over both Olive’s and Eureka’s Masters of Cinema Region 2 DVD, offering a transfer that is exceptionally clean and sharp. Fine detail is adequate, if not breathtaking, and there’s a cold hue to the image that looks fairly different from the DVD releases. Some might balk at the color timing, but I didn’t find it to be a distraction. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack handles the French dialogue with no issues. English subtitles are unfortunately forced. There are no extras.