Film of the Week: La Haine (1995)

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Mathieu Kassovitz directs Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé and Saïd Taghmaoui as three youths knocking around their outskirt estate, and later central Paris, the day after a violent riot in their community. 

A harder edged Parisian take on Do the Right Thing. There’s still the same poetical high valuation on the lives of the disenfranchised but here the key factor is not just race but also youth and poverty. In many ways it is an angrier but more inclusive movie because of it. Spike Lee’s colourful masterpiece essays that if you stepped past fear and injustice a dialogue might still be possible. Kassovitz’ almost exclusively shows a monochrome world where the relationship between the estate kids and everyone else has been so brutalised they may as well be speaking alien languages to each other. Only a magical realist timeout with a gulag surviving midget ignoring their aggression to tell them a fable from his own tragic past shows any sign of connecting with them. And this puzzling moment fittingly takes place in a restroom – a lovely break from an ever present, narrative disrupting ticking clock to inevitable tragedy. The black and white photography of the film is lush, full of meaningful framing and pointed camera movies. And Cassel and Taghmaoui absolutely burn indelible marks on the screen, powerful raw acting brilliance that made their deserved reputations internationally. La Haine is still, 22 years on, an accessible and energetic polemic that everyone should see. Perhaps most importantly, despite everyone involved probably being a lot more middle class than they let on at the time, the journey feels authentic and unforced.

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