“La haine”: Film Review

Posted: January 31st, 2023 | Filed under: Cinema | No Comments »

At 5:00 PM on a recent Sunday evening on Baxter Avenue near Highland, a man was shot and killed. The second such incident in that area recently.

One of Louisville’s finest eateries, Jack Fry’s is just a shout away.

This is Cherokee Triangle Territory. A “good” neighborhood. A “safe” neighborhood.

Not so much anymore apparently.

This is the kind of violence that is supposed to happen only on the other side of the tracks, at the other end of town where at a red light you don’t stop.

Call it violence creep. It is a very real thing.

This brutality is, for various reasons, becoming the new normal.

Such a killing, at that spot, at that time of day, would have been unfathomable a quarter century ago.

When the phenomena of violence was crafted on celluloid by Director Mathieu Kassovitz’s in his searing, award-winning film, “La haine” (Hate).

At that time and place such occurrences were said to only happen at the dark end of lower-class neighborhood streets.

In this brilliant movie, twenty four hours in the life of three malcontented, non-working youths on the outskirts of Paris, the lots in lives of those living in such environs had already fomented extreme violence. Riots. Constant human aggression.

Against authority.

Against each other.

Even against the best of pals, like the focus of this black and white masterpiece. Vinz (Vincent Cassel), a Jew, Saïd (Saïd Tahhmaoui), an Arab, and Hubert (Hubert Koundé), an African immigrant.

The day portrayed is mostly like every one for these guys born and mired in poverty and dissafection.

They wake up.

They hang out.

They get high.

They argue.

They try to visit a friend in the hospital, who was shot the night before by the gendarmes. And get in their own confrontation with police. As they do several other times during the day and night.

They have expropriated American gangsta culture. The lingo. The break dancing. The adoration of guns. Vinz, with the shortest fuse of the trio, mimics DeNiro’s Travis Bickle in his bathroom mirror.

Their simmering anger is just a comment or interaction away from exploding.

This is a day in the life of their Paris, not Emily in Paris’s Paris.

They walk about. Shoplift. Get in arguments. Run away from the cops.

There are three truly resonant scenes where they interact with others. One, in a tony upscale apartment. When his pals join Saïd as he goes to collect some money from a fellow.

Another, in a public restroom, when an old man shares a story, a fable, a life-lesson warning the threesome do not really understand.

The third comes when they crash an effete gallery opening in the heart of the city.

“La haine” works on several levels.

As film-making, it is top shelf. Shot in cinema verité black and white, it is expertly edited. It won the editing award at the ’96 Césars, the French equivalent of the Academy Awards. It also won Best Film. Vincent Cassel won Best Actor.

Mathieu Kassovitz, whom you may know from the French TV series, “The Bureau” or when he played Audrey Tatou’s love interest in “Amélie,” won the Best Director Prize at the ’95 Cannes Film Festival.

Though the final scene is somewhat predictable, that makes it no less jarring. The movie is deserving of all the accolades.

The film is also important in how it subtly reveals the causes of violence and its effects, which in the last quarter century, have spread beyond the borders where only the desperate reside.

It is a hard watch, but one that needs to be seen.

It can be streamed at Amazon Prime.

It is also an offering in this year’s Louisville Jewish Film Festival, “La haine” will be shown at Baxter Theater on Thursday, February 16, at 7:00 at Baxter Theater. Tickets are free, and can be obtained in advance at jewishlouisville.org/event/louisville-jewish-film-festival-la-haine/.

— c d kaplan

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