Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
The Romanian New Wave goes global in The Whistlers, the latest eccentric yarn from acclaimed director Corneliu Porumboiu (The Treasure, VIFF 15). A standout of this year’s genre-heavy Cannes competition slate, this twisty gangster noir opens on La Gomera (one of Spain’s smallest Canary Islands), where a corrupt Bucharest policeman named Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) is sent against his will. In a downright whimsical turn, he’s there to learn the region’s aboriginal whistling language, which he needs to pull off an elaborate plot right under the noses - or rather ears - of the Romanian police.
As the film’s labyrinthine plot unfolds with clockwork precision - revolving, of course, around a stash of money - there are twists, turns, and double-crossings aplenty, involving not just Cristi’s also-corrupt superior Magda (Rodica Lazar), but also his mother (Julieta Szönyi), and a femme fatale aptly named Gilda (Catrinel Marlon). The Romanian auteur’s glossiest, most expensive production to date, The Whistlers nonetheless retains Porumboiu’s eclectic sensibility and deadpan humour. Watching this deliriously enjoyable tale, you feel that the director, like his characters, is getting away with something. You’ll want to go along for the ride.