20-05-2019

FNE at Cannes 2019: Review: The Whistlers / La Gomera

By
FNE at Cannes  2019: Review: The Whistlers / La Gomera photo: Vlad Cioplea

CANNES:Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu has scored a slot in this year’s competition with The Whistlers / La Gomera, a Romania/France/Germany coproduction a clever film-noir romp that is as full of twists and turns as his highly successful earlier works like Police, Adjective and The Treasure but more facile and in some ways more audience friendly and entertaining.

Porumboiu who also wrote the script gives us a gangster story with a double crossing cop and mattresses stuffed with millions of EUR in cash that starts out in Bucharest but also takes up to the Canary Islands and finally to a stylish last scene in Singapore.

The story starts off a mattress factory near Bucharest run by a local criminal Zsolt played by Sabin Tambrea has his femme fatale girlfriend Gilda played by Catrinel Marlon who are using the factory to launder money for gangsters in Spain and Latin America.  Zsolt ends up in prison but he is also the only person who knows where 30m EUR of hot money is hidden. But everyone is double-crossing everyone in this plot that is full of twists and turns.

Cristi played by Vlad Ivanov is a Romanian police officer who is a whistle blower for mafia, but he is also under police surveillance. His office and his apartment are bugged and he knows it.  But to get Zsolt out of prison and get the money he has got to communicate with the mobsters.  He hits on the idea of going to the Canary island of La Gomera Island to learn an ancestral whistling language. He has heard about it from his Spanish mafioso pals and he thinks if he learns this special language he will be able to outsmart the Romanian policy surveillance.  This ancient whistling language which in the Canaries can carry from one mountain top to another can also be used to whistle messages from one Bucharest tower block to another. While surveillance is hi-tech the mobsters plan to evade it by using a coded language so ancient that no computer can decipher it.

It is a clever plotline and it is also the first time Porumboiu has ventured outside Romania although the sensibility of the film and its characters remains profoundly Romanian despite a lot of action taking place in the sunny Canary Islands.  He is aided in this by the work of his regular cinematographer Tudor Mircea who keeps the action moving with the usual Porumboiu pace and style regardless of whether the cast is in Bucharest or La Gomera.  

Ivanov plays Cristi with just the right level of irony and subtle energy.  Two Spanish actors bring in an element of authentic Spanish flavour as Paco, played by Agusti Vallaronga the big mobster boss and his side kick Kiko played by Antonio Buil who is also a master of whistling. Despite all the crazy twists and turns of the plot Porumboiu keeps the characters decidedly low-key and understated and even with all the double crossing going on somehow you cannot help but like and sympathise with them.  There are also many beautifully done scenes within the ongoing action that bear the unmistakable Porumboiu signature.

Porumboiu’s fans will not be disappointed and he might just win a lot of new ones.

The Whistlers / La Gomera (Romania/France/Germany)
Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu
Cast:Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar, Antonio Buil, Agustí Villaronga, Sabin Tambrea, Julieta Szonyi, George Pisterneanu
Produced by 42 KM FILM
Coproduced by Les Films du Worso, Komplizen Film and Arte Grand Accord
Supported by the Romanian Film Centre, Eurimages

Sales: MK2 Films www.mk2films.com