WHISTLERS, THE (LA GOMERA)
(director/writer: Corneliu Porumboiu; cinematographer: Tudor Mircea; editor: Roxana Szel; music: Evgueni Galperine; cast: Vlad Ivanov (Cristi ), Catrinel Marlon (Gilda), Agustí Villaronga (Paco), Rodica Lazar (Magda), István Teglas (Motel Owner), Antonio Buíl (Kiko), Sabin Tambrea (Zsolt), George Pisterneanu (Alin), Julieta Szonyi (Cristi’s Mother); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Marcela Mindru Ursu, Patricia Poienaru, Sylvie Pialat, Benoit Quainon, Janine Jackowski, Jonas Dornbach, Maren Ade; Magnolia Pictures; 2019-Romania/France/Germany-in Romanian, English, and Spanish with English subtitles when needed)
“A gangster neo-noir film that’s just mad enough to please those who like their cop-and-criminal dramas to be playful.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
La Gomera screened at the Cannes Film Festival.
The latest absurdity by the gifted Romanian New Wave filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu (“Police, Adjective”/”The Treasure”) is his most mainstream and his least important film. Still it’s a delightfully offbeat and a deadpan funny dirty cop movie, one that might be categorized as a gangster neo-noir film that’s just mad enough to please those who like their cop-and-criminal dramas to be playful.
The middle-aged Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) is a taciturn and corrupt Bucharest policeman who is fixated on getting richly rewarded if he gets a Bucharest businessman with mob connections out of a Canary Island prison. He knows the crook after getting involved in his drug-money-laundering setup while investigating him.
Cristi’s corrupt boss is the woman head of the ‘narcotic bureau,’ the redheaded Magda (Rodica Lazar), who has installed spy cameras in his apartment.
Cristi, on the urging of the mobsters, takes a ferry to the Canary Islands on La Gomera, where the businessman is imprisoned and where the bad guys operate from. There Cristi reunites with the sexy femme fatale Gilda (Catrinel Marlon), a fellow Romanian whom he slept with in his Bucharest pad only so that the spy cameras would reveal her to be a high-priced prostitute and not a mobster connection. She’s the clever girlfriend of the imprisoned mattress company owner Zsolt (Sabin Tambrea), an untrustworthy petty criminal.
Gilda taps Cristi as the one who will help her boyfriend escape. And Cristi is helped in this mission by the crafty Canary Island mobster Kiko (Antonio Buíl) and the Spanish speaking mafioso boss Paco (Agustí Villaronga).
The bad guys insist Cristi learn the ancient whistling language originally whistled by the Guanches, an aboriginal tribe native to the region. The ancestral language is called Silbo Gomero, and is deftly used by the gangsters as a means of communication that ensures them that there are no eavesdroppers in the police department. Kiko is Cristi’s very able whistling teacher.
The insufferable cop goes along with the gangsters teaching him how to whistle. The idea is for Cristi to get the job done here and return to Bucharest to use his new language skills to help with the operation of smuggling the drug money in the mattresses to Spain and Venezuela. It’s important for the mob to keep Zsolt alive because he’s the only one who knows where the 30 million euros from the drug deals are hidden.
It will be through double-crossings and shoot-outs that we arrive at the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore for a gaudy bloodbath conclusion.
The eclectic soundtrack includes Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger,” which works well with Tudor Mircea’s vibrant camerawork.
REVIEWED ON 2/29/2020 GRADE: B