A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995)

Would the friendship of the Jew, Vinz (Vincent Cassel), the African, Hubert (Hubert Koundé), and the Arab, Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui) be possible in the Parisian banlieus today? For that matter, was it in fact possible when writer-director Mathieu Kassovitz made La Haine in 1995? Or was it a symbolic construct to emphasize solidarity against the Establishment and the corrupt police force, somewhat like the ethnic stews of Italian-, Irish-, and Jewish-Americans (but never, sadly, African-Americans) that Hollywood filmmakers put on bomber crews and destroyers during World War II as a way of promoting solidarity against the enemy powers? The question is rhetorical, of course, and not designed to undermine the importance and brilliance of Kassovitz's terrific (and terrifying) film, made in response to outbreaks of violent protest in the poorer suburbs of Paris. It has the quality of some of the best neo-realist Italian films of the postwar years, with the additional sense of something about to erupt that pervades the film and has not dissipated in the 21 years since it was made. If anything, it has spread into the rest of the world, especially in the post-9/11 era. The trio of actors on whom the film mainly focuses is extraordinary, both individually and as an ensemble.