Dir: Corneliu Porumboiu
NR, 97min, Romania / France / Germany / Sweden, 2019
In The Whistlers, not everything is as it seems for Cristi, a police inspector in Bucharest who plays both sides of the law. Embarking with the beautiful Gilda on a high-stakes heist, both will have to navigate the twists and turns of corruption, treachery and deception. A trip to the Canary Islands to learn a secret whistling language might just be what they need to pull it off.
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In a delightful twist, leading Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu, whose inventive comedies such as Police, Adjective (NYFF47) and The Treasure (NYFF53) have for more than a decade brought deadpan charm and political perceptiveness to his country’s cinematic renaissance, has made his first all-out genre film—a clever, swift, and elegant neo-noir with a wonderfully off-kilter central conceit. Easily corruptible Bucharest police detective Cristi—played by the eternally stoic Vlad Ivanov—arrives on the mist-enshrouded Canary Island of La Gomera, where he learns a clandestine, tribal language, improbably made entirely out of whistling; this form of hidden communication will keep his superiors off his trail as he becomes increasingly embroiled in a convoluted gangster scheme involving a stash of Euros hidden in a mattress and a sultry femme fatale named, of course, Gilda. Porumboiu’s take on the crime drama furthers his explorations of the intricacies and limitations of language, but is also his most playful, even exuberant, film. A Magnolia Pictures release. An NYFF57 selection.
Listen to Corneliu Porumboiu’s Q&A from NYFF57: