Adams on Reel Women: Maiwenn pulls no punches in ‘Polisse’
Photo by Sundance Selects
"Americans want the French with baguettes and berets," the actress-writer-director Julie Delpy ("Before Sunrise") told me last month, "The way French people handle sexuality is too controversial for American audiences." That remark resonated when I watched actress-writer-director Maiwenn submerge herself in the sordid world of the Paris Child Protection Unit. Maiwenn's ripped-from-the-headlines drama, "Polisse" — a movie that won last year's jury prize at Cannes — should appeal to anyone needing a "Law & Order" fix. Call it "Paris: SVU."
[Related: Indie Roundup: 'Intouchables' and 'Polisse']
Maiwenn plays a supporting role in the ensemble as Melissa, a disaffected upper-class photographer ("I only eat organic") and mother who becomes intoxicated by the police unit's urgency. As the officers under her lens confront pedophilia, rape, and child abuse in ethnically diverse Belleville, Melissa loses her objective distance, drawn to an angry but righteous cop named Fred (Joey Starr), who has a wife and kid at home.
'Polisse' director Maiwenn (Sundance Selects)
One featured subplot follows the fractured work "marriage" of two partners, Nadine (Karin Viard) and Iris (Marina Fois). Nadine deals with her divorce at home; Iris tries to get pregnant while hiding bulimia. Meanwhile, on the job, their daily intimacy coping with unspeakable cases like that of a rape victim's partial birth abortion of an unwanted fetus shows signs of strain. When their relationship finally implodes, the women sling intimate secrets along with work grievances as their colleagues try to separate them. The confrontation scene is unsparing: Women have their own ways to be crueler than a simple punch in the nose.