La Haine

B+

La Haine

B+

La Haine

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After the Paris suburbs erupted in violence in summer 2005, some renewed attention was paid to Mathieu Kassovitz's bracing 1995 feature La Haine (or Hate, as it was released here), which documented with raw verve the rupture between the authorities and the disenfranchised, mostly immigrant youth. Though the film won Kassovitz a Best Director prize at Cannes, it divided critics into two camps: Those who found it a dazzling, urgent piece of new French realism, and those who dismissed it as slick, Hollywood-influenced attitudinizing. Kassovitz's subsequent work on hollow dreck like The Crimson Rivers and Gothika has tarnished La Haine, much as if Martin Scorsese had followed up Mean Streets with Mother, Jugs & Speed. La Haine contains a few false notes, but they go hand-in-hand with the young punk energy and anger that animates nearly every shot. Kassovitz participated in the riots that inspired the film, and he aligns himself defiantly with an immigrant generation that's been left out of the discussion.

Much like Do The Right Thing in reverse, La Haine covers a day in the life after a riot, this one sparked by the hospitalization of an Arab teenager due to police brutality. Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé, and Saïd Taghmaoui play best friends—a Jew, an African, and an Arab, respectively—who embark on a 24-hour odyssey after Cassel finds a missing police revolver and vows revenge if the brutality victim dies. Much of the film follows the trio as they flee from one place to another, and after a while, it becomes clear that they don't really belong anywhere, like street kids constantly getting shuffled off the corners.

La Haine builds to a shocking (and deeply contrived) finale, but it's mostly composed of thrillingly unpredictable scenes of the boys hanging out, spitting rapid-fire dialogue loaded with pop-cultural references and chest-thumping braggadocio, and generally getting into trouble. In another world, these kids would be like the clique in Federico Fellini's I Vitelloni, restless and jovial, prowling the streets for girls while pondering what the future might bring. In this one, they don't know if their future will include tomorrow.

Key features: Jodie Foster, who helped distribute the film in the U.S., provides an introduction, Kassovitz submits a well-edited commentary, and a supplemental disc has new documentaries, interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage.

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