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Catrinel Marlon (Gilda) in "Les siffleurs" by Corneliu Porumboiu. © Vlad Cioplea

Is this the first whistled polar-opera in the history of cinema? Let yourself be surprised by "The Whistlers", an extraordinary musical detective film which will be released this Wednesday, January 8 in theaters in France. Corneliu Porumboiu, 44, one of the lighthouses of the new Romanian cinema, enjoys playing wonderfully with the conventions of the genre film without forgetting love and humor.

" Welcome to La Gomera, the pearl of the Canaries ". This is where Corneliu Porumboiu understood that cinema is like a whistle: "T he El Silbo Gomero language makes it possible to code spoken language, a bit like cinema codes reality ".

The opening of the film is majestic. When Cristi, a Bucharest police inspector and troubled character from the film, sees the rocky and wild coast of La Gomera on the ferry, everything is left unsaid, on a rock tune from The Passenger by Iggy Pop.

" Tongue under your finger ... "

Whistlers is the story of a corrupt Bucharest police inspector who finds himself on the paradisiacal island of La Gomera, forced to learn the ancestral whistled language to prepare for the next blow.

At first, we do not know why Cristi landed on this paradise lost in the Atlantic. Little by little the mystery rises. We understand that he leads a double life and must be of service to drug traffickers if he wants to save his skin. The corrupt cop then learns this secret language as a combat sport: " lips inside, the air comes from the belly, the tongue under the finger ... " He thus trains himself to thwart the police surveillance system in order to free a mobster from prison.

The local and millennial culture of this Spanish island turns out to be as spectacular as the landscapes of the island in the film. And the Romanian filmmaker mixes with amazing ease the art of whistling with airs of opera, punk-rock or musicals. Because Les siffleurs also seduces with its police opera side where the director blackmails sopranos, birds and police snitches. Betrayal and cruelty take pride of place in the narrative, without preventing the appearance of love and humor.

The laws of beauty

The whistlers is made up of several superimposed realities. The chapters of the film are color coded to characterize the characters. The secret language of whistles gives surreal aspects to reality, already challenged by the subtle game with surveillance cameras. As for the framing of images, it obeys the law of beauty. Gilda (Catrinel Marion), who brought the inspector to the island, is filmed like a Reclining Nude by Modigliani. In this tale of an abused policeman and a femme fatale, female beauty is matched only by the heavenly nature in which the film was filmed.

Filled with punchy dialogues, the script feeds on a whirlwind of scenes and reversals without ever getting tired. Cinema also plays its role in the unfolding of the story: the allusion to the cult scene of the shower and its curtain rod in Hitchcock's Psychosis , which makes us both shudder and laugh, or even the meeting you double agent with the curator in a movie theater as John Wayne escapes the Indians on screen.

From Norma to Mackie Messer

The most amazing thing about this kaleidoscope of impressions, emotions and genres is that nothing seems free or superfluous. Everything contributes to creating an exceptional film crossing the thriller, the film noir, the western, the comedy, until the opera. Norma de Bellini rubs shoulders with Orphée aux Enfers by Offenbach and Mackie Messer by Kurt Weill.

After the session, we just want to kiss the director for having given us an hour and a half of pure happiness, of rare intelligence.

Catrinel Marlon, Vlad Ivanov, Agustí Villaronga and Antonio Buíl in "Les Siffleurs", by Corneliu Porumboiu. © Vlad Cioplea