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THE WHISTLERS

MUST END THURSDAY, JUNE 4

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WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY CORNELIU PORUMBOIU

ROMANIA’S OFFICIAL SUBMISSION TO THE 2020 ACADEMY AWARDS® FOR BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

“Everything we speak can be whistled. If the police hear the language, they will think birds are singing.” Not everything is as it seems for Cristi (Vlad Ivanov, 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS), a police inspector in Bucharest who plays both sides of the law. Embarking with the beautiful Gilda (Catrinel Marlon) on a high-stakes heist, both will have to navigate the twists and turns of corruption, treachery and deception. A trip to the Canary Islands to learn a secret whistling language might just be what they need to pull it off.

ROMANIA / FRANCE / GERMANY      2019      97 MINS.    IN ENGLISH, ROMANIAN, AND EL SILBO GOMERO WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES    MAGNOLIA PICTURES

Reviews

“INGENIOUSLY STRUCTURED, ENGAGING AND WITTY... If the Coen Brothers were Romanian, they might have made THE WHISTLERS… a globe-trotting, time-shifting, tongue-in-cheek crime caper, shot in bright colors on locations far from Bucharest or anywhere else in Romania. The plot involves an intricate conspiracy with a cynical cop, a femme fatale, and an international cast of gangsters who communicate in Silbo Gomero, the ‘whistling language’ used in the Canary Islands. The whole thing is clever and a little silly, with a lightness and energy that testifies to the filmmaker’s inventiveness.”
– A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“A sly and intricate crime drama… With elaborate flashbacks detailing Cristi’s work as a police detective and his duplicitous dealings with colleagues, underworld figures, and family members, Porumboiu explores the intersections—and the political implications—of linguistics, memory, and espionage. The many characters’ distinct perspectives on the action are multiplied by chilling views from surveillance cameras, prompting deceptive displays—including romantic ones—in which tipped-off targets fool those who are watching.”
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker

“A deadpan genre piece with a sly jab. It’s a serious work of pulp friction... Anyone expecting a neo-realistic look at the existential crisis of society gutted by years of Communist tyranny may think they’ve wandered into the wrong arthouse. Yet this sideways taker on a cops v. Mob tale is still very much in the New Wave wheelhouse, and pushes forward a number of philosophical themes and preoccupations that the writer-director has wrestled with in his more reserved previous work... Ivanov (slips) into the tarnished-knight role and (lends) it an earthy, well-earned gravitas. (Think Ed Harris playing the Man With No Name. It’s that kind of mood.)”
– David Fear, Rolling Stone

“A delectable deadpan noir. Darkly funny. Consisently compelling... far removed from the drab banalities that are Porumboiu’s usual m.o., it offers up double crosses, deadly goons with comb-overs and Lemmy mustaches, and a number of strange delights, including an accomplished action climax, a sex scene that pushes surveillance into the realm of kink, and a starring role for Ivanov, an imposing, balding character actor mostly known for playing scumbags and authority figures in art films... Playing with genre cryptograms of gangster villas, opera-loving killers, and glamorously lit cigarette smoke, the film never takes itself too seriously.”
– Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club

“A sleek, sharply chiseled scherzo of a movie. THE WHISTLERS makes reading subtitles not just vital, but fun. When someone here whistles, your eyes leap to attention at the accompanying words onscreen, not just to comprehend their meaning but to see how they correspond to sounds that bear only the faintest resemblance to human speech... A funhouse of cinematic mirrors that at one point references a famous sequence from ‘Psycho’; in another scene, Cristi and his similarly treacherous superior, Magda (Rodica Lazar), have an assignation at a theater showing ‘The Searchers.’ Porumboiu slyly folds these allusions into the movie’s genre DNA, in set-pieces that temporarily recast the story as slasher picture and western.”
– Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times