Saturday, May 27, 2023

2023 Blind Spot Series: La Haine


(Winner of the Best Director Prize at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival)
Written, directed, and co-edited by Mathieu Kassovitz, La Haine (Hatred) is the story of three different men in a Parisian suburb who spend an entire day waiting for news about a friend of theirs following a riot as they cope with their surroundings and differences. The film is a study of three men who deal with the assault of their friend as they cope with their own poor existence as they’re all from immigrant families as it play into the fallacies of France’s idea of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Starring Vincent Cassel, Hubert Kounde, Said Taghmaoui, Karim Belkhadra, Edouard Montoute, and Francois Levantal. La Haine is a gripping and evocative film from Mathieu Kassovitz.

Following the aftermath of a riot in a nearby suburban area of Paris, the film follows a day in the life of three young men who walk around their poor town and eventually into Paris as they await news about a friend of theirs who had been beaten severely by a police officer leading to all sorts of chaos. It is a film that explores three men living in these poor suburbs with one of them wanting revenge while the other two ponder on what to do as it all plays into this air of uncertainty in their lives. Mathieu Kassovitz’s screenplay is largely straightforward as it is told in the span of nearly 20 hours in the lives of these three young men who are all from different backgrounds and such yet they’re all born in France. The Jewish Vinz (Vincent Cassel), the Afro-French Hubert (Hubert Kounde), and the North African Muslim Said (Said Taghmaoui) are all from the same poor area with immigrant families as they ponder the status of their friend Abdel (Abdel Ahmed Ghili) with Vinz wanting revenge on the police as he had found a .44 Magnum revolver that a cop had lost during the riot.

Throughout the course of the film, these three men deal with the surroundings they’re in as they get into clashes with cops, gangs, and such while Vinz carrying a gun doesn’t help matters as Hubert is dealing with the fact that his gym had been burned in the riots halting his growing boxing career as Said is often in the middle being the mediator between the two. Even in the film’s second half where they go to Paris to hide from the police following another raid as they deal with this clash of social classes including a stop at an art gallery. It adds to the chaos with Vinz wanting revenge towards the police while Hubert doesn’t believe all cops are bad despite a moment later in the film where he and Said are humiliated by plainclothes cops during an interrogation.

Kassovitz’s direction does have elements of style in its overall presentation as it is shot on black-and-white film stock and on location in Paris and the suburban area of Chanteloup-les-Vignes. It adds to this sense of realism to the film but also this atmosphere where it is tense as the film opens with a montage of news reports of riots in France as it relates to the poor and their battles with the police. It then shifts to Said as he walks around the neighborhood where Kassovitz uses a lot of wide and medium shots to play into the locations including some unique compositions that play into the sense of alienation that the protagonists. There are also some close-ups that Kassovitz creates as it play into the sense of fear and anger that these characters go into including some of the confrontations such as the scene where the three men try to visit Abdel only to be stopped by the police where Vinz makes some threats with Hubert trying to defuse things and Said trying to sneak into the room.

Kassovitz also plays into this air of social differences as it plays into this fallacies of France’s own ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity as these three men are shackled by their environments while they live in a world where they don’t have much and are often hounded by the police. There are also moments of violence whether through beatings and other physical confrontations yet there is also this element of danger due to the gun that Vinz is carrying. Even in its third act where they try to return home and leave Paris while they get into a confrontation with a gang as it reveal some revelations about these three men and who they are. It also plays into the idea of hate as it is the thing that drives these men whether it is towards the police, society, or racist gangs as it adds to this sense of disenfranchise that they feel as well as a lack of future around them. Overall, Kassovitz crafts an exhilarating and visceral about three young men dealing with the fate of their friend while spending 20 hours trying to deal with the world they’re in.

Cinematographer Pierre Aim does phenomenal work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its approach to grainy film stock as well as its usage of available and artificial lighting for some of the film’s interiors along with some of the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editors Mathieu Kassovitz and Scott Stevenson do excellent work with the editing as their usage of jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts to play into the action and drama add to the eerie tone of the film. Art director Giuseppe Ponturo does brilliant work with the look of the apartment homes of Vinz and Hubert as well as the gym that the latter trained in after it had been burned down as well as other places they go to. Costume designer Virginie Montel does fantastic work with the costumes as it is largely casual with many of the people in the suburbs wearing track suits, jeans, and t-shirts to play into the world they come from.

The makeup work of Sophie Benaiche does terrific work with the look of the characters in terms of the blood and bruises that appears following some of the film’s violent moments. The sound work of Vincent Tulli and Dominique Dalmasso do amazing work with the way objects sound as well as gunfire, police sirens, and other elements that play into the tense atmosphere of the film. The film’s music by the French hardcore hip-hop group Assassin is incredible for its intense and vibrant sound that help plays into the atmosphere of the film while its soundtrack features music from Bob Marley & the Wailers, Roger Troutman with Zapp, Isaac Hayes, Expression Direkt, Solo, the Beastie Boys, and Cut Killer who appears in the film playing music in a key scene of the film.

The casting by Jean-Claude Flamand-Barny is wonderful as it largely features non-actors and newcomers including some notable small roles from the trio of Zinedine Soualem, Bernie Bonvoisin, and Cyril Ancelin as a trio of plainclothes police officers who humiliate Hubert and Said during an interrogation, Mathieu Kassovitz as a young skinhead, Marc Duret as a police investigator wearing a Notre Dame jacket, Tadek Lokcinski as an old man in a bathroom who tells the three young men a story about his life that makes them think, Julie Mauduech and Karin Viard as a couple of women at an art gallery, Nabil Ben Nhamed as a young boy who tells the three men a story he watched on TV, Felicite Wouassi and Fatou Thioune in their respective roles as Hubert’s mother and sister, Rywka Wajsbrot and Olga Abrego in their respective roles as Vinz’s grandmother and aunt, Heloise Ruth as Vinz’s sister Sarah, Mathilde Vitry as a journalist trying to talk to the three men about the riots, Vincent Lindon as a drunk man who helps the three in trying to steal a car, and Abdel Ahmed Ghili as Abdel as the young man who is in a coma following a horrific beating.

Francois Levantal is superb as a man named Asterix who lives in a posh area as he owes money to Said where he is a man full of trouble as he tries to get the men to play Russian roulette that would make them uncomfortable. Edouard Montoute is excellent as Darty as a friend of the trio who invites them to a kickboxing fight that Vinz would watch as he also someone that proves to be violent. Karim Belkhardra is fantastic as Samir as a police detective who tries to help Hubert and Vinz following a confrontation at the hospital despite all of the chaos that is happening.

Finally, there’s the trio of Vincent Cassel, Hubert Kounde, and Said Taghmaoui in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Vinz, Hubert, and Said. Taghmaoui’s performance is full of humor but also someone who feels like he doesn’t get enough credit as he tries to get some money and respect while is also the one who has to mediate between Hubert and Vinz. Kounde’s performance as Hubert is entrancing as this man who is sensitive and rational but is also intense as Hubert is a boxer that has issues with the rioters over burning his gym. Cassel’s performance as Vinz is the most intense as this Jewish man who is upset over Abdel and wants revenge where he is someone that wants to be tough and bad but also naïve in thinking that carrying a gun can give him power.

La Haine is a tremendous film from Mathieu Kassovitz that features a trio of great performances from Vincent Cassel, Hubert Kounde, and Said Taghmaoui. Along with its riveting visuals, intense presentation, exploration of social disenfranchisement, and its killer music soundtrack. It is a film that is definitely confrontational about the idea of what breed hates and why the ideals of what France is about is full of contradictions and lies. In the end, La Haine is an outstanding film from Mathieu Kassovitz.

Mathieu Kassovitz Films: (Metisse/Café au lait) – (Assassin(s)) – (The Crimson Rivers) – (Gothika) – (Babylon A.D.) – (Rebellion (2011 film))

© thevoid99 2023

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