Mournful Music

This week is a good one if you happen to be a fan of the Corneliu Porumboiu. Two new(ish) films by the Romanian filmmaker behind 2009’s Police, Adjective are being released via streaming. His 2018 effort Infinite Football is a real oddity, a seventy-minute documentary following bureaucrat Laurentiu Ginghina, who suffered a terrible leg injury as a teenager and now reflects about developing a new version of the beautiful game, with different rules and an octagonal-shaped pitch.

The Whistlers, meanwhile, is a police procedural with a unique twist. Veteran Romanian actor Vlad Ivanov – who featured in Police, Adjective – plays a corrupt Bucharest policeman, Cristi, suspected by his superiors of wrong-doing in a case involving laundering drug money. Cameras are secretly put in his apartment, although he’s all too aware of what’s going on. But in classic film noir style, he then falls for Gilda (Catrinel Marlon), the beautiful mistress of his criminal paymaster. She arrives at his apartment but to ensure no suspicion is around, pretends to be a sex worker paying him a visit.

Film noir fans will immediately pick up on Porumboiu’s reference – to the 1946 film Gilda by Charles Vidor starring Rita Hayworth in the title role. But even they will be surprised by the plot’s turn of events that take Cristi to La Gomera in the Canary Islands, where the mobsters reside and the money trail leads. Here, the crims all communicate via whistling – sounding something like birdsong – a code that the police just can’t break.

This tradition called silbo is entirely genuine, and adds a real exotic flavour to the thorny plot – one that boasts a Raymond Chandler level of complexity that takes some unpicking. With the contrasting Bucharest and Canary Islands locations making for a stimulating visual reference point, The Whistlers is typical of Porumboiu’s black sense of humour and his own interest in corruption, bureaucracy and – as the title hints – whistleblowing. For those in need of a good mystery-movie in these times of lockdown, this will keep you guessing until the very end.

The Whistlers and Infinite Football are available to stream on Curzon Home Cinema from 8 May. For more details, click here and here.

James Mottram

Credits: Still from The Whistlers.