La haine [Hate] (1995)

(In French, On TV, November 2016) For a French-Canadian cinephile, there’s something both familiar and slightly exotic to La Haine, given how similar it is to American ghetto movies … while taking place entirely in French, or at least a lowbrow European version of it (thanks for subtitles!) An early film from Matthieu Kassowitz featuring Vincent Cassel, La Haine is a no-budget cry from the heart detailing a fateful day in the life of three disaffected Parisian teenagers as racial tensions surround them. Things go ugly quickly, as they are wont to do in this kind of film. Shot in stark black-and-white and featuring an even harsher punk soundtrack, La Haine is about urban alienation and it is not meant to be pretty. (There’s even a scene in which our three uncouth protagonist crash a sophisticated art show … and it doesn’t turn out well.) It’s not meant to be a pleasant or enjoyable film—more akin to a mirror showing back imperfections without comforting lies. Intriguingly seen paired with similar American inner-ghetto films, La Haine remains a striking document of a French social problem that has never quite gone away since then.

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