There is something to be said for brevity. Taking their lessons from their start in short films, the best directors keep a film as tight as possible in order to gain maximum impact for the material they are presenting. The French comedy drama Au Poste clocks in at a very short 82 minutes and it doesnt waste a single second of it.
There has been a suspicious death and the man who found the body outside of his apartment building is being interviewed by the lead detective (Benoit Poelvoorde). it is getting late and the witness (Gregoire Ludig) is getting a bit annoyed at missing dinner for what should be a simple statement. The detective, one the other hand, sees a number of inconsistencies with his story and is taking him through it one stage at a time.
On paper it doesn’t sound like the basis for a great film but it is in the way that the tale unfolds that really makes it come to life. The opening scene has nothing to do with the film plot wise but everything to do with setting the tone. A middle aged man is conducting and orchestra in a field. What is odd that he is wearing nothing but a pair of bright red briefs. As the music swells the police arrive to arrest him and a chase ensues. Cut to one of the detectives listening to the same piece of music on his headphones. This is a pointer to how the rest of the film unfolds. it isn’t exactly conventional.
As the interview progresses we see what the witness is describing as flashbacks. They are initially shot in a conventional way but soon veer into some strange territory as characters from the Police station start to interact with him even though he has yet to meet them.It makes for some nice comedic aside.
The main characters are all interesting from their first appearance. The main detective is an old school type who does things by the book but at the same time has a quirky streak to him. At one point he has a cigarette and smoke starts to come out of his chest. This is never explained and in doing so makes it all the funnier. His sidekick is a stranger one. With a single eye and a way about him that is bordering on imbecility at times his time on screen is superb. It is a fantastic combination of sharp dialogue and a well honed performance.
As with so many French films these days, it will be a struggle to see it outside of its own country. It is well worth seeking out though as it is a rewarding, funny and strange film.