Visceral French Masterpiece – LA HAINE (HATE)
LA HAINE (HATE) is a movie packed wall to wall with the most incredible shots – all in service to the story.
Few films merge substance and style as seamlessly as this 1995 French film by Mathieu Kassovitz, the story of 3 French youths – one Jew, one Arab, and one Black – who plan to avenge a friend’s death at the hands of the police. It’s a powerful, lyrical masterpiece, and a treasure trove of exuberant camera technique, not one frame of which feels overindulgent or unnecessary. The ghetto of Kassovitz’s narrative is part black and white documentary, part over-cranked slow-motion flyovers, and between these two extremes anything can happen. Referencing Kurosawa’s Stray Dog in its “gun lost by a policeman” point of departure, the plot focuses on what happens when angry young men find a means of exercising (or is it exorcising?) their hatred. Hubert Koundé and Saïd Taghmaoui are fantastic, but it’s Vincent Cassel who steals the show, with a performance that echoes Robert De Niro’s in Mean Streets, only amped up for an angrier generation. And yet the direction outshines even him, painted with deep shadows and shot construction that makes you pause, rewind, and marvel at what Kassovitz is up to. If you haven’t seen this movie you’re in for a treat, from the opening anecdote to Bob Marley’s bass-heavy “burnin’ and lootin'” accompanying the titles to the film’s final frame, it’s one hell of a ride which’ll leave the movie-lover in you breathless. In the 15 years since, Kassovitz has failed to live up to the promise of this landmark film, having directed a number of bigger-budgeted action movies (Crimson Rivers, Gothika, Babylon A.D.) and perhaps most notably starring as Audrey Tautou‘s love interest in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie. But as Joseph Heller once wrote, “when I read something saying I’ve not done anything as good as Catch-22 I’m tempted to reply, ‘Who has?'” – and Kassovitz should feel the exact same way about La Haine.