OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

The Whistlers

(La Gomera)

Loyalty is not their language.

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The dirty-cop trope gets an imaginative new workout in this sly and intricate crime drama by the director Corneliu Porumboiu. Its premise creeps up stealthily: a middle-aged Romanian man named Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) is ferried to one of the Canary Islands, but not for pleasure – gangsters are force-teaching him a local language that uses whistling in place of words, so that he and other whistling accomplices can be replanted in Bucharest to help spring a drug lord from jail.

With elaborate flashbacks detailing Cristi’s work as a police detective and his duplicitous dealings with colleagues, underworld figures, and family members, Porumboiu explores the intersections – and the political implications – of linguistics, memory, and espionage. The many characters’ distinct perspectives on the action are multiplied by chilling views from surveillance cameras, prompting deceptive displays – including romantic ones – in which tipped-off targets fool those who are watching. The tale winks at echoes of classic movies, as evoked in showdowns at a cinémathèque and an abandoned studio.

– Richard Brody, The New Yorker

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