La Haine [1995]

9 / 10 | 28.May.12
La Haine

DIRECTOR: Mathieu Kassowitz  |  WRITER: Mathieu Kassowitz  |  CAST: Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé, Saïd Taghmaoui, Abdel Ahmed Ghili, Héloïse Rauth, Rywka Wajsbrot, Olga Abrego, Laurent Labasse, Choukri Gabteni, Benoît Magimel  |  France

I wondered whether La Haine would smack me upside the head today on my netbook’s tiny screen the way it did when I saw the movie originally 16 years ago on a big screen. I needn’t have worried. La Haine is stunning. Although in hindsight it’s clear that the movie wasn’t really as radically new stylistically as it seemed to me at the time — Mathieu Kassowitz’s clear influences range from Godard to Woody Allen to Lars von Trier (of Europa) to Spike Lee, with a heaping portion of Scorcese — La Haine does have its own integrity. If I have any problems with it, and I do, they’re relatively minor and have to do mostly with the occasional jokeyness that I find gets real old, real fast, and with what I take to be Woody Allenisms. Not just direct address to the camera, but really long and not terribly funny jokes are told with feeble endings, or no endings at all, that the listeners affect not to understand but which tell us a Truth about Life; sometimes a joke is repeated at a different point in the film. It doesn’t matter: this is an extraordinarily beautiful movie full of dazzling camerawork and brilliant film and sound editing. And some great performances, too, that almost make you forget that the characters are (purposely) types rather than people: the Jew, the Arab, the African, the Asian (Korean?) grocer in the projects, etc. I haven’t even mentioned that La Haine is an overtly political movie. Well, I just did. It’s that loopy jokeyness that gets on my nerves.

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