Whistler’s Mother

The Whistlers (La Gomera, Corneliu Porumboiu, 2019)

I suppose I thought this was made under the spell of Tarantino, but possibly more Kubrick’s The Killing, but it is a shuffled narrative about a crime. It is beautifully choreographed to music — notably Iggy Pop’s The Passenger — and has some random moments of violence (an American in the wrong place at the wrong time is particularly amusing, a minor supporting character less so).

You could imagine an American remake, but they’d add more swearing.

So, Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) is investigating drug smuggling and money laundering, but might be on the take himself. He is certainly under investigation himself and he is well-aware of this — the question is how far he is in this for himself and how far he is trying to get the criminals to reveal themselves.

In order to help the criminals carry out their caper, he is forced to go to the Canary Islands and learn a whistling code — that way the criminals can communicate without the police being tipped off. At the same time, he is trying to work out his relationship with Gilda (Catrinel Marlon), the chief mobster’s girlfriend who has pretended to be in love with him to throw the surveillance team off the scent. Cristi will cooperate with the criminals, if they let her go — even if they won’t necessary get together.

There are some wonderful levels of performance and performing performance and performing performing performance — notably in the setpiece retrieval of the stashed money from the centre of an old film set for a Western. Throughout, you get the sense that the film is quoting other texts, whether Hollywood films noirs or Romanian television series.

Perhaps, at the end, you don’t know more than you did at the start of it. Or perhaps you don’t know as much at the start as you do at the end.


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