July 2012


'Polisse' by Maïwenn (director)

By Carrie Tiffany
'Polisse' by Maïwenn (director), in limited release from 28 June.
'Polisse' by Maïwenn (director), in limited release from 28 June.

French director Maïwenn wrote the script for Polisse (with Emmanuelle Bercot) after an internship with the child protection unit of the Paris police.

Polisse flicks through dozens of child protection cases drawn from real life; rape, incest, sexual abuse, pick-pocketing, internet pornography, stolen children, abandoned children. The film’s child actors have uncanny poise. Their secrets give them a kind of clarity, a weighty stillness. A freckled blonde tells her mother cryptically that her father loves her too much. A noodle-limbed young gymnast blushes shyly in front of his creepy coach. A homely teenager, her lips raw from over-licking, gives birth to a stillborn baby and reaches for the swaddled corpse to apologise. The baby is the result of rape. Although brief, these scenes are forceful and unsettling.

It is in dramatising the lives of the police that the film comes undone. The police of the child protection unit drink, dance and screw. They live sprawling and exhausting lives yelling at their spouses and exes and marching their children across darkened streets from house to house. Nobody understands them or the stresses of the work they do. Their bosses are unfeeling bureaucrats. They work all hours. They will do anything to save a child. They are every cliché you’ve ever seen in a television show about cops.

The plot hangs on the loose conceit that a documentary photographer has been assigned to the unit. The photographer (played by Maïwenn) is a serious young woman. When police tough-guy Fred (JoeyStarr) confronts her for snapping him eating fries rather than searching for an abducted baby, he is asking a critical question for the film – what’s your point of view? But we never see the young woman’s photographs and soon Fred is unpinning her hair and removing her glasses to discover that she’s beautiful. (Who knew?) Cue sexy dancing.

The film motors on at a blistering pace and with wild shifts of tone. A scene at a nightclub where our fit and photogenic cops cavort to disco music looks like a grab from Fame. When a busload of Romanian children are distraught at being removed from their families, the police play a pop song that has everyone grinning in a jiffy. Perhaps the oddest scene involves Fred bathing his toddler daughter. Fred keeps his jocks on and turns to the wall as he instructs the wee tot to soap her “girly bits”.

In its rush to fill more frames with hysterical cops, Polisse dilutes and simplifies the stories that it seeks to tell. It’s a great pity, as the performances of the children who tell them are very fine.

Carrie Tiffany

Carrie Tiffany is a is a Naarm-based writer. Her most recent novel is Exploded View.

There is nowhere quite like The Monthly. We are told that we live in a time of diminished attention spans; a time where the 24-hour-news-cycle has produced a collective desire for hot takes and brief summaries of the news and ideas that effect us. But we don’t believe it. The need for considered, reflective, long-form journalism has never been greater, and for almost 20 years, that’s what The Monthly has offered, from some of our finest writers.

That kind of quality writing costs money, and requires the support of our readers. Your subscription to The Monthly allows us to be the home for the best, most considered, most substantial perspectives on the state of the world. It’s Australia’s only current affairs magazine, an indispensable home for cultural commentary, criticism and reviews, and home to personal and reflective essays that celebrate and elevate our humanity.

The Monthly doesn’t just comment on our culture, our society and our politics: it shapes it. And your subscription makes you part of that.

Select your digital subscription

Month selector

From the front page

Osamah Sami with members of his local mosque

In ‘House of Gods’, Sydney’s Muslim community gets to be complicated

Plus, Barnaby Joyce shines in ‘Nemesis’, Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott deliver ‘Bottoms’, and Chloë Sevigny and Molly Ringwald step up for ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’.

U2 performing in the Las Vegas Sphere

Where the feats have no name: ‘U2:UV’ at Sphere

It’s no surprise it took U2 to launch post-stadium rock via a spectacular immersive show within the technical marvel of Las Vegas’s newest venue

Grace Tame running in the 2023 Bruny Island Ultra Marathon

Running out of trouble

How long-distance running changed the life of the former Australian of the Year (and earnt her a record win in an ultramarathon)

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Might as well face it

Lively discussions take place around the country every week on ethical non-monogamy, love addiction and how much sex is too much

In This Issue

Emily Perkins. © Jessie Casson

Out of Auckland

Emily Perkins’ 'The Forrests'

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Four Coroners

The Last Azaria Chamberlain Inquest

Berlinde de Bruyckere. © Eamon Gallagher

In the Flesh

Berlinde De Bruyckere

Schoolies in a Surfers Paradise polling booth at the 2007 federal election. © Fiona Hamilton / Newspix

Comment: Australian Democracy and the Right to Party

Online latest

Osamah Sami with members of his local mosque

In ‘House of Gods’, Sydney’s Muslim community gets to be complicated

Plus, Barnaby Joyce shines in ‘Nemesis’, Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott deliver ‘Bottoms’, and Chloë Sevigny and Molly Ringwald step up for ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’.

International Film Festival Rotterdam highlights

Films from Iran, Ukraine and Bundaberg were deserving winners at this year’s festival

Two women on a train smile and shake hands

‘Expats’ drills down on Hong Kong’s class divide

Plus, Netflix swallows Trent Dalton, Deborah Mailman remains in ‘Total Control’ and ‘Vanderpump Rules’ returns for another season

Image of a man playing music using electronics and the kora (West African harp)

Three overlooked albums of spiritual jazz from 2023

Recent releases by kora player John Haycock, trumpeter Matthew Halsall and 14-piece jazz ensemble Ancient Infinity Orchestra feel like a refuge from reality