Police, adjective

December 28, 2009

From Avatar, a bloated techno-marvel of contemporary cinema, to the other extreme of the film world:  Police, adjective, a Romanian movie about, well about a cop with a conscience.  I’m not going to recommend this film, although I liked it a lot, because if you see it, you may never read my blog again – it’s hard to watch at times. 

When I was in school, my friends and I sometimes played a game that I called Dictionary Madness – we would try to find definitions in Websters that were totally opaque, unhelpful, and totally dependent on other definitions that nobody knew.  Dictionaries can be that way – circular and elliptical in their “helping.”  Sort of like the Molière character who explains that opium puts one to sleep because it has a “dormative virtue.”   Ultimately, this  film hinges upon a fit of dictionary madness in which the book of words becomes an instrument of authoritarian humiliation. 

Cristi thinks he has a “conscience,” but can he properly define what that means?  Who makes the meanings of words anyway?  The users of them, or the Romanian Academy, to which his grammar school teacher wife refers during their bizarre and arcane discussions of pop songs and rhetoric?  Or is it The Boss, to whom the hapless Cristi must report, and suffer his cold, withering, and totally calm application of the dialectial method?

My wife said this was the most boring film she’d ever seen, and I can’t really argue with her.  In  all those police and detective films you’ve seen over the years where they stake out a suspect, what do they do?  They sit in a car across the street, chat, eat doughnuts,  skip through time under the knife of the editor so that we feel that time has passed, but it goes pretty quickly.  Not a bad way to earn a paycheck, eh?  Not in this one!  Nooosirrreee!!  He waits, we wait, and wait, and wait, and wait…and wait some more.  Work for a cop in a decrepit post-communist state that hasn’t quite gotten with the democracy program is pretty bleak.  And what is he waiting for?  Evidence to nail some teenagers who smoke hash on the corner.

I loved the locations – I have a taste for the shabby and ramshackle – and everything in this movie is just that.  How does an entire country live in this environment? 

The title of the movie comes from one of the definitions of “police” that they read in the climax.  It can mean:

  • noun – the people who enforce the law:  The police subdued the criminal.
  • verb – to enforce law and order: The men were ready to police the concert grounds.
  • adjective – a type of story that follows the progress of a police investigation, sometimes referred to in French as a policier – a detective story, of which, of course, the film is an example.

“A dagger at my heart…”

August 21, 2008

Once again (see this post) I return to the story of mass arrests in NYC – peaceful protesters, or people not even demonstrating, hauled into the precinct station, some of whom were held for days.  Only two people tried – acquitted of course – in proceedings that surely must have been absurd to witness given the evidence available that totally undermined all of NYPD’s claims. Everyone else released, no charges.  Why were they arrested?  HYSTERIA!

The New York Times has been following, and sometimes editorializing about the process by which the lawsuits against the city are being settled.  Today, it describes how at great cost in legal fees and staff time, after much stalling and stonewalling, the city is paying out millions of dollars to settle claims related to its violation of civil rights.  Of course, the NYPD admits no wrong doing – state organs never do.

The article quotes the fellow shown in the picture above:

Then they started arresting us, one by one. At that point, I got emotional — I could not believe in my country, in my city, I could get arrested for doing absolutely nothing and standing on the sidewalk,” Mr. Shirazi added.

Are there any lessons from the day? The Law Department said the $2 million payout did not mean the police had done anything wrong. “This settlement was reached without any admission of liability on behalf of the city and the individual defendants,” said Ms. Halatyn, the city lawyer.

The Police Department did not respond to a request for comment on the settlement.

Mr. Shirazi said that as he was being handcuffed for the first time in his life, he told the officer that the plastic cuffs were squeezing him. “He said, ‘You should have thought about that before you came out this morning.’ It was like a dagger in my heart, that a police officer of my city would come up with anything like that.”

In what does patriotism and love of country consist?  Following orders motivated by unthinking fear or hallowing and practicing the ideas that gave it rise in the first place?