Photos from La Haine (Hate) – Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995. This is my favorite film of all time, so allow me a bit of room for hyperbole, extreme subjectivity, and a few more screenshots than usual. I think any good film should primarily entertain you. If it can deliver something deeper, that’s hot fudge on top–it’s not necessary, but it’s really nice. When a film reveals something new during each viewing and remains as entertaining as it was on first viewing, it’s something magical. There are few films I put in this category: Se7en, Apocalypse Now, The Wire (the best movies are on TV now, haven’t you heard?), Training Day, Oldboy, City of God, and La Haine.
But everyday, I come back to La Haine. Perhaps it is the wholly organic use of Hip Hop. The ethos of mid 90s Hip Hop permeates the lives of three French kids who want nothing more to be from New York. The film’s most remarkable scene makes incredible use of a performance by DJ Cut Killer, who chops Edith Piaf and NWA over Biggie’s “Machine Gun Funk” as Kassovitz’s camera surveys the sprawling ghettos surrounding Paris.
Perhaps it is the acting. Vincent Cassel (who you may know as the diamond thief from Ocean’s 12. You know, the one who dances through the laser beams), Saïd Tagmaoui, and Hubert Koundé deliver memorable performances rife with teenage fire, anxiety, and confusion.
Perhaps it is the story. La Haine presents the tense and unsettling twenty-four hours following a riot inspired by the beating of an Arab teen by the police. Kassovitz delicately leads his characters through questions of race and class without ever reaching the polemical contrivance of films such as Crash or Babel. Though it wears the influence of Do the Right Thing proudly, it manages to be far more ambiguous (though there are certainly arguments for the ambiguity of Lee’s overall message, his film’s tone is more didactic than Kassovitz’s).
Perhaps it is this aforementioned resetting of influences. Lee’s concerns of race and justice fit quite nicely into Kassovitz’s film, played for both comedy and drama. Kassovitz employs Tarantino’s meandering, often seemingly tangential dialogue to display the wandering, listless spirit that pervades the lives of ghetto youth. Vincent Cassel’s character, Vinz, is obsessed with Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, revealing La Haine’s fascinating grapple with American cultural influence and French identity.
On any one viewing, I can lose myself in any of the above factors. I haven’t even gotten into the stunning black and white photography or the intriguing, often hilarious, ancillary characters encountered throughout the film’s journey. I can’t recommend this film highly enough.