Left: Maïwenn, Polisse, 2011, color film in 35 mm, 127 minutes. Production still. Right: Nanni Moretti, Habemus Papam, 2011, color film in 35 mm, 104 minutes. Production still.


POLISSE IS THE THIRD of four Palme d’Or–vying films helmed by women, but its director has the distinction of being the only one in the Competition lineup with a mono-moniker: Maïwenn, who decided to drop her surname, Le Besco (she is the older sister of Isild Le Besco, another actress-writer-director). Based on real cases from the Paris Child Protection Unit, Polisse examines the brutal work and messy domestic lives of ten CPU officers, and stands out as the most clamorous, tonally awkward film shown in the festival so far. That the director cast herself in a completely superfluous role as a photographer assigned to document the unit—who later falls in love with its shoutiest member, Fred (the one-named, no-spaced Joeystarr)—typifies the film’s many misjudgments (others include scenes in which the officers crack up, as did the audience, at the misfortunes of two barely teenage girls). One colleague admitted he endured the two-hours-plus running time just so he could hiss at the end; I wished I’d heard him over the stupefying applause during the final credits.

Also confounding were the claps and laughs that greeted Habemus Papam (“We Have a Pope”), another Competition title by another triple threat: Nanni Moretti, who won the Palme d’Or in 2001 for The Son’s Room. The director, who co-wrote the script with two others, plays a renowned psychoanalyst summoned to aid the newly elected pontiff, played by Michel Piccoli, who screams, “I can’t do this!” just as he’s summoned to the balcony of the Vatican to greet his flock. The Holy Father, presented as a sweet, sympathetic, frail old man, flees his handlers and mingles with civilians. During his walkabout, he falls in with a group of actors performing Chekhov; back at the Vatican, Moretti’s shrink organizes a double round-robin volleyball tournament for the cuddly cardinals. Only in the final minutes of Habemus Papam does Moretti acknowledge, ever so discreetly, the enormous crises facing the Catholic Church. We have a papam; we also have pap. Why not a pope smear?

Melissa Anderson