The film follows three young men and their time spent in the French suburban "ghetto," over a span of twenty-four hours. Vinz, a Jew, Saïd, an Arab, and Hubert, a black boxer, have grown up in these French suburbs where high levels of diversity coupled with the racist and oppressive police force have raised tensions to a critical breaking point. During the riots that took place a night before, a police officer lost his handgun in the ensuing madness, only to leave it for Vinz to find. Now, with a newfound means to gain the respect he deserves, Vinz vows to kill a cop if his friend Abdel dies in the hospital, due the beating he received while in police custody. Written by
The trip across Paris is strange : the three characters should arrive at the Saint-Lazare station(north-west of Paris), coming from ChanteloupLesVignes. Yet, when they arrive, they are in front of the Montparnasse station(south of Paris), on the Rennes street. Then, they go to Asterix place, on the boulevard Pierre Ier of Serbia, close to Iena Place (west of Paris), and when they try to catch the last train, this time they are at the Saint-Lazare station, the right one to go back. But then, when they are on the roof, they see the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero from the south-east, being probably close to Montparnasse station. Then, they come across a sculpture, L'Ecoute, in the Halles Garden(center of Paris), before going back. Hence, their trip goes : south, west, north-west, south and center of Paris. See more »
the most important thing isn't the fall but the landing
"La Haine", probably one of the most momentous French movies of the nineties caused a stir when it opened in 1995 so much so that it became a big social phenomenon. It heralded a genre: the "film De Banlieue" whose backdrop is high-risk French suburbs and in its wake, other movies emerged like "Bye-Bye" (1995) or "ma 6-T Va Crack-Er" (1997). "La Haine" remains Mathieu Kassovitz's best moment. Afterwards, he didn't cease to disappoint me. "Assassin(s)" (1997) left me uncomfortable and queasy and "les Rivières Pourpres" (2000) was an absolute turkey. I haven't seen "Gothika" (2003) but he shot it with the Hollywood presence on his back and I fear the worst.
To better be immersed in his plan, Kassovitz shot his film in one of these high-risk French suburbs (I can't remember its name but you can check it in the "filming locations" rubric when you arrive on the page of the film on this site). This gives his movie an ultra-realist sensation which rings true. In the space of a day, his camera follows a threesome of ruffians. There's Vinz (Vincent Cassel) who acts the tough guy. He is proud of having stolen the gun of a cop and hopes to make good use of it. When he is asked to make an effort of reflection, he loses his temper. Hubert (Hubert Koundé) a pacifist who craves to get out of this daily hell but where to go? He also knows that hate breeds hate. It's both the catalyst of the riots and adds fuel to the fire in the incessant conflicts. And also Saïd (Saïd Thagmaouï), a brazen teenager. The three of them wander in their neighborhood and in Paris between visiting of friends, relationships with the riffraff, the police, arguments, reconciliations and foolish things. An ordinary day during which the trio appears as prisoners of their suburbs and have a life with no horizon. A day which will lead to the inevitable, marked out by the time which often appears on a black screen.
Kassovitz did his best to create a stylish film and it paid off well. It was a good idea to have shot his film in a black and white cinematography because it bestows it with a very gritty aura; sometimes there's a documentary whiff which pervades the film. His camera work which commands admiration makes juxtapose travelings, static shots and circular movements according to the vibe a sequence could convey. It also helps to enhance the scenery which is perhaps the fourth main actor of the film after the trio. Overrall, his film is a hard-hitting assessment of a faltering universe (the high-risk suburbs) in which latent tensions and hate reign and it can awake at any time in violence. This hate in question which the inhabitants of these suburbs feel towards the cops is also smoldered in the cops and I wonder if Kassovitz indicts their sometimes intolerable demeanor, especially when some ruffians are kept in police custody. In the beginning of the film, the audience learns that a suspect, Abdel is in a coma at hospital because he was badly injured by the cops during questioning. When they learned this, the toughest guys of these suburbs sparked off a riot. In a way, the attitude of the police helps to fuel the hate and to separate farther the gap and the incomprehension between the inhabitants of these suburbs and the police. That said, Kassovitz doesn't generalize. Not all the cops are monstrous. Check the two sequences when in the first one, a policeman tries to make the riffraff understand in a sensible manner that they can't stay on the roof of a building and the second sequence when Vinz, Hubert and Saïd are in Paris and they ask their way to a policeman who guides them in a polite way.
The actors were discerningly chosen and perfectly directed. It seems that Kassovitz fostered improvisation. It was the right method to confer his film with an authentic feeling. They deliver dialogs full of slang, coarse lines and sometimes they're inaudible so you'll have to be very attentive to catch what they say. However, this drawback isn't really irritating and was surely wanted by the director to reinforce the unique spontaneity of the film. With his build and his face of ruffian, Vincent Cassel was ideally cast as the stubborn Vinz while his two main partners are amazingly true to life. And there are some famous French actors who have cameos and who weren't afraid of having demeaning parts like Vincent Lindon, a drunkard or Zinedine Soualem, a sadistic cop.
Kassovitz remains as objective as possible and doesn't offer solutions to solve these problems. More than ten years after it reached the streets, his films is still a topical one and the riots and violent incidents which broke out in high-risk suburbs in many French cities the last fall alas show that these tensions aren't alas ready to subside.
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