Challenge Week 32: La Haine

Social problem films are often kind of a difficult sell for me, but I was hoping some of the stylistic choices on this one would win me over and they did help quite a bit. Some people complain that Antoine’s delinquency in The 400 Blows (my #2 film of all time) is too mild to warrant the kind of response it gets; La Haine is kind of like what The 400 Blows might be like if the delinquency were more extreme (and the film were more overtly stylistic and less lyrical). In the wake of police brutality and riots, the youth of Paris are on edge, trigger happy, and ready to bust some heads. Quickly our main trio of characters differentiate themselves – Hubert, a black youth who’s jaded about rebelling against authority and really just wants out of the situation; Said, of Arab descent, who’s wound tightly but is also kind of a goofball; and Vinz, who is truly full of the hatred of the title.

Stakes are raised when Vinz reveals he’s got the gun lost by a police officer earlier in the riots. Some stuff like this struck me as culturally odd – in the US, it seems likely that smalltime hoods like this would already have access to guns, but perhaps things are different in France, or perhaps I’m overestimating the ease of access even here thanks to firearms’ ubiquity in movies and TV. Anyway. The point is he’s got a gun, and the interplay between the three friends as they figure out what to do with it (and what NOT to do with it) is dynamic and interesting, as Vinz is gung-ho on mindless revenge and Hubert wants to de-escalate the situation.

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The conflict between the police and the youth of the projects where our characters live seems to have been ongoing for quite a while, to the point that we don’t really see inciting incidents beyond the news talking about riots and police brutality as if it’s an endless cycle of violence. Vinz and his friends are specifically angry about one of their crew being in prison, but mostly they’re just angry in general. The film, made twenty years ago, is extraordinarily and sadly relevant to 2016 – but Kassovitz isn’t really interested in offering solutions, only in presenting these particular characters in sharp focus against an undifferentiated background. That’s a perfectly acceptable and often effective method, but I did find myself often thinking that these guys needed to quit acting like hoods and find better hobbies, and I’m not totally sure that’s the takeaway I was meant to have.

The stylistics of the film kept me engaged when the characters didn’t, with a lot of smash cuts and quick dollies upping the ante every so often, not to mention the crisp and harsh black and white – all of which might have been distracting, but instead were viscerally involving and mirrored the characters’ very high-strung and on edge personalities. I also found it surprisingly humorous, especially thanks to Said – the scene where Vinz gives him a terrible haircut is very funny, and Said in general is a live wire but a likeable one.

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Stats and stuff…

1995, France
written and directed by Matthieu Kassovitz
starring Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé, Saïd Taghmaoui

I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how La Haine entered my chart:

La Haine > Dick
La Haine > American Graffiti
La Haine < Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
La Haine < Cruel Intentions
La Haine > Road to Morocco
La Haine < Waking Life
La Haine > The Bakery Girl of Monceau
La Haine < Shaun the Sheep Movie
La Haine < Thirst
La Haine < Revanche
La Haine < Trail Mix-Up
La Haine > The Uninvited

Final #777 out of 3691 films on my chart (79%)

It is now my #1 Matthieu Kassovitz film, my #2 Vincent Cassel film, my #9 Message Movie, my #5 Social Problem film, my #17 Urban Drama, and my #8 film of 1996.

La Haine was recommended by Nick Dallas, a friend from the Flickcharters group on Facebook.

A few quotes…

Hubert: Heard about the guy who fell off a skyscraper? On his way down past each floor, he kept saying to reassure himself: So far so good… so far so good… so far so good. How you fall doesn’t matter. It’s how you land!

Vinz: Who made you a preacher? You know what’s right and wrong? Why do you side with the assholes?
Hubert: Who’s the asshole? If you had stayed in school, you’d know that hate breeds hate, Vinz.

Vinz: It’s about a society on its way down. And as it falls,it keeps telling itself: “So far so good… So far so good… So far so good.” It’s not how you fall that matters. It’s how you land.

A few more screenshots…

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