Combustible Celluloid
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With: Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar, Agustí Villaronga, Sabin Tambrea, István Téglás, Cristóbal Pinto, Sergiu Costache, George Pistereanu, Antonio Buíl, David Agranov
Written by: Corneliu Porumboiu
Directed by: Corneliu Porumboiu
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Romanian, English, El Silbo, Spanish, with English subtitles
Running Time: 97
Date: 02/28/2020

The Whistlers (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Put Your Lips Together and Blow

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This quirky, convoluted crime story is quite a bit different from Corneliu Porumboiu's earlier features, 12:08 East of Bucharest and Police, Adjective, both of which I love for their slow, even pace and their extremely dry, sly sense of humor. Perhaps the more plot-heavy The Whistlers was an attempt to get close to that, but it somehow doesn't always click. It eaves little impression as a whole, but is occasionally intriguing. The story involves a policeman named Cristi, played by a different actor than the Cristi from Police, Adjective. This Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) is crooked, and teams with delicious femme fatale Gilda (Catrinel Marlon) — perhaps named for Rita Hayworth's famous character? — to free Gilda's criminal boyfriend, Zsolt (Sabin Tambrea), who knows the location of a great deal of money. Since everything is bugged and there are surveillance cameras everywhere, they can only pull this off by teaching Cristi "El Silbo," a special language that utilizes only whistling. (This is a real thing, used in the Canary Islands.) Porumboiu's camera placement is as assured as ever, with fewer long takes than usual, but with a beautiful eye for composition. Watching the characters try to fool their watchers — Gilda pretends to be a high-priced prostitute and has sex with Cristi — and try to learn the language — Cristi must swim in the ocean to increase his wind power — are truly entertaining, but it's also easy to get lost (perhaps in translation?).

Magnolia has released it on DVD. They were unable to send me a review copy (due to the COVID-19 pandemic), but there are apparently about 8 minutes of deleted scenes.

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