The Whistlers (2019)

CORNELIU PORUMBOIU

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

Original Title: La Gomera

//, 2019, , , , , , , , , , , , Screenplay by Corneliu Porumboiu.   Cinematography by .   Produced by , .   Production Design by .   Costume Design by Film Editing by Cannes Film Festival 2019. Toronto International Film Festival 2019.

Cristi () is a henchman for the mob who is sent to the Canary Islands to hole up with his fellow goons and learn the island’s secret whistling language.  The reason, we find out, is that he also a cop, and his boss wants him to be able to communicate without his colleagues back home in Bucharest knowing what he is saying.  A heist that involves thirty million Euros hidden in two motel room mattresses is at the heart of all this activity, and Cristi decides to go for broke and try to take it for himself and share it with the beautiful Gilda () who is also working for the same bad guys.  The joke, of course, is that post-communist Romania is only different in name from before, and the line between cop and gangster that Cristi represents is very slim and his activities don’t really raise an eyebrow with the authorities for whom he works.  Told in separate pieces, separated by chapter headings with each portion given a slim narrative focus on various characters, this is a film that takes  a while to put together, teasing you by forcing you to put the pieces together, but in a way that invites you into its mystery and never feels frustrating.  The exceptional performances contribute to a dark and moody neo-noir, while the cultural details that won’t be familiar to all audience members add to a mosaic of elements that add up to something original and exciting right up to the conclusion.  is superb as Cristi’s no-nonsense boss Magda, who simply can’t be shocked no matter what she encounters.

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