Monday, June 6, 2011


Damn, what a tease. This 18 minute short, that you can currently watch for free right here just by clicking this link (, could have easily been a feature length film. RARELY is there a film where i actually care about police officers (Joe Carnahan's 'Narc' is another exception), but there's something very interesting about 'Negropolitain' (specifically the younger police officer character) that drew my interest. It might have to do with the fact that it co-stars Alex Descas. He's one of those actors that as long as he's in something, I'll watch it no matter what it is. His stone-faced presence brings a seriousness to movies that's almost indescribable. Furthermore, his acting in 'Negropolitain' is kind of out of character, which is really cool. His character in this is a complex, unlikeable person. Anyone familiar with his acting should know that he rarely yells, plays a unlikeable person or even raises his voice for that matter. In fact, if he was around in the 1960's or 70's, he would've fit in perfectly in a Bresson film. But I don't wanna go too much in to praising Descas again, because i already did that in my review of 'No Fear, No Die'. I think what also intrigued me about this film is that its technically a "gritty cop drama", which is something usually associated with American Film. Its even shot in that handheld, "realistic" style that's so common with police films in America these days. Maurice Piliat is a french director who dabbled with the gritty cop drama style in his film 'Police'. In fact, 'Negropolitain' has elements of Maurice Pialat (a french director who's almost always compared to John Cassavetes), but that grittiness is nothing that completely caught on in France, and most cop/detective films from France tend to take/borrow from Claude Charbol's style.
The plot of 'Negropolitain' is somewhat similar to the basic plot of 'Training Day' or even 'Narc' to a certain extent (although its much better than 'Training Day'): a young police rookie (Julien Beramis) on his first day is partnered with a veteran cop (Descas) who has his own agenda and way of doing things. Right off the back there's some serious tension between the 2 partners due to generational issues as well as racial issues (we learn that Descas has some self-hatred issues regarding his race). I personally think that a lot of the tension between the 2 cops, besides the racism that the film explores, has to do with the fact that Descas, the older cop, sees himself in his new rookie partner (the fresh, positive outlook that he probably once had in his rookie years). The tension between the 2 gets so heated that at one point, they get physical with one another (on their first day of working together).
My favorite part of the short film has to do with how the younger police officer is represented. Normally i hate when films try to make cops "hip" and appeal to young people (kind of like what "New York Undercover" tried to do), because i think that shit is corny. But it was actually kind of interesting in this film. From the way the young cop dresses to the big stylish headphones he listens to his music with (and even though we don't hear what he's listening too, its obviously some kind of modern/popular music) he doesn't look like your average police officer. At the beginning of the film, theres a very clever, subtle and kinda complex moment where he walks in to the police station for the first time, and on his way in he passes another black guy around his age, dressed similar, walking out of the police station who has clearly just been let out after committing some crime. That scene was clearly used to break stereotypes, but at the same time it also plays in to stereotypes (its pretty typical for a film to show a black criminal walking out of a police station). Obviously, there's a lot of racial tension, which is something I'm sure you could expect from a film about 2 black police officers. At the beginning, the young officer is actual happy and relieved that he's partnered with another black cop, and tries to speak to Descas in creole, but is quickly scolded. In fact, the character that Alex Descas plays has some serious race issues. His character is kind of reminiscent of Adolph Cesar in 'A Soldier Story' or even Samuel L Jackson in 'Lakeview Terrace' (which is an awful movie, but the comparison still fits). There's also a racist encounter that the 2 black police officers have with 2 security guards. But the most powerful racial scene in 'Negropolitain' is when the father of 2 young black kids comes to the police station to take them home after they've just been arrested.

This short can be viewed for free on along with a bunch of other great films. For a limited time, is partnering with La Semaine de la Critique to celebrate 50 years of programming with a series of films from the Cannes festival’s history (which just recently ended). The films will be free for the first 1,000 views through June 30.

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