Police (1985) – Two Faces, Neither of Them Real

Can art ever articulate the truth?  The films of Maurice Pialat display a grave ambivalence towards that question.  With his first film, L’Enfance Nue (1968) Pialat showed a real animosity towards not only traditional forms of cinematic story-telling, but the very conceit and artificiality of fiction itself.  Pialat is a director who wants to put the real world on the screen without the traditional intermediaries of editorial or narrative.  However, despite this hostility to the artificiality of artistic representation, Pialat never returned to his roots as a documentary film-maker.  Instead, he produced films such as Nous Ne Vieillirons Pas Ensemble (1972) and La Gueule Ouverte (1974).  Films that presented themselves as traditional dramas, but which were in fact elaborately dramatised autobiographical meditations upon his own life.

Police is a film that continues Pialat’s tradition of ontological uncertainty.  It is a work of genre by a film-maker who loathed fiction and a character study by a man who seemed to believe that there was no such thing as the self.  Unsurprisingly, Police is a film that exists under a permanent ontological fog.

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