American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I'm not sure I feel more at ease after seeing this prize-winning film about a child protection unit in Paris. No doubt a lot of children get protected, but the professional standards of the police sometimes seem inspired by TV cop shows, on which the plots center around the camaraderie of the cops.
Consider this scene. A female officer is questioning a teenage girl who was asked to provide oral sex for a group of boys. Why did she agree? Because they took her cell phone. The policewoman can barely suppress her laughter. She calls some colleagues into the interrogation room and tries to keep a straight face as she briefs them: “She gave b*** j*** to get her cell phone back.” The girl doesn't think she was so stupid. “It was a smart phone!” she explains. Now all the cops are laughing at her.
The police seem to move as a posse. They make raids together, sit in on one anothers' interrogations, have dinners at one anothers' houses and carry on various sexual affairs. Their dynamics threaten to upstage the importance of their work. Yes, there are serious scenes, some heartbreaking, including the questioning of a great many adults who talk defensively about their behavior as if they don't see anything wrong with it.
The message is that the sexual abuse of children is more common in Paris than anyone would believe, and although some of it involves child prostitution, most of it involves family members. It's not that the cops chortle through one interrogation after another, but more that they seem to display a streak of voyeurism. Having seen so much evil, they're curious about what they haven't seen before. One cop asks for a case, because “I haven't had one like that.”