When Andrew Sarris recently suggested that watching Gerard Depardieu read the telephone directory would be worth the price of admission, somebody riposted that Maurice Pialat’s Police was a good chance to test out the theory. Well, it is and it isn’t–the longueurs are there, but to insist on them too strongly is to miss the subtlety and penetration of Pialat’s formal method. Depardieu plays a French policeman whose sense of legality isn’t much finer than that of the criminals he hounds, and Pialat follows him everywhere with close, oppressive resolve (there’s a constant visual tremor in the verite tracking that suggests a life perpetually on edge). Pialat manages to capture the symbiotic connection between criminality and police work without conventional moralizing, and also without the comfortable cynicism of the typical French policier (Claude Zidi’s My New Partner is a case in point; it wears its corruption like a badge). The modified improv styling (already familiar from Pialat’s Loulou and A nos amours) pushes the film toward risk and immediacy, though there are obviously limits to what it can do. As the cop given over to underworld longings, Depardieu is a study in shifting attitudes, and Richard Anconina’s lawyer is simply shifty; both are excellent even without a phone book, as is the rest of the cast: Sophie Marceau, Pascale Rocard, Sandrine Bonnaire. (Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday through Thursday, January 30 through February 5, 7:00 and 9:00, 281-4114)