Paris, France. When the place comes to mind visually, you think of certain landmarks (Eiffel Tower), certain foods (baguettes, croissants, snails), certain attitudes (smugness, cigarette smoking) and most importantly certain people (Audrey Tatou, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Louis Garrel). However this is not all that Paris is. Paris is considered the New York City of Europe. This is for several reasons, one being French is the international language of business and France has historically conquered several third world countries and therefore their inhabitants looking for a better life travel to the main land. Arabs, Africans, and Jewish people are three big ethnic groups in France. And yet, do you see many films from France about them? Are they represented in their government, businesses, or society? I recently watched Midnight in Paris (which I wrote about on this blog). This film is about an American visiting Paris. You see Paris through his eyes. Every woman and man was of Western European descent. Every place he went when he was in present day was cleaned up. It was beautiful. That is how most Americans see Paris. However that is not how Paris is.
La Haine (Hate) is about trying to get visibility for these ethnic groups. The film follows three young men, each one of different descent. One is Jewish, one is African, and one is Arabian. Yet they live in the same neighborhood and are best friends. The place they do live doesn’t look a thing like Paris. It looks more like the projects of Southside Chicago or the Bronx. It seems divided from the rest of the town. This is made even more clear by the events of the film.
The Jewish man (Vinz is played by Vincent Cassel, it is weird to see him all gangstered out.) could be considered the protagonist. The night before he had participated in a violent riot that took place after a police officer maliciously beat a young Arab, who seemingly didn’t do anything. He gloats about how he participated in the mayhem. He is proud to possibly go to jail for a month for messing some shit up. He wants respect from his neighbors. He wants to be a gangster. However the African man, Hubert, has seen many people wreck their lives from wanting to be something so stupid. He continueally is trying to convince Vinz that fighting is stupid. He wants to get out of the ghetto. Said is an Arab who doesn’t really feel any connection to the boy who was shot, despite being from the same ethnic group. He acts as a buffoon. For instance, he goes through considerable effort to get 500 francs from this man named Snoopy. He drags his friends all over Paris in order to find him. Yet apparently 500 francs is not much.
These men run into several cops during their adventures through this film. They are hassled, they witness a friend of theirs shooting at a cop, they are jailed and they are beaten. All of it seems to be without real reason. One of the most emotional scenes for me personally has got to be when Hubert and Said are handcuffed to chairs and these two cops sort of grill them, but they don’t really want any information, they just want to choke them. They continue with verbally and physically abusing them for several moments while they explain to what I assume is a new recruit about their methods. The new recruit sits there disgusted. Why are they doing this to two boys who don’t seem to know anything. The cops are just sort of venting their frustrations from the night before on them.
Throughout the film, the three men watch several news reports on the riot. Every news report mentions that a gun was stolen from a cop during the confusion. Several people from the street are interviewed about whether they are not worried about it. Vinz shows his two friends the gun and says that if the young man who is hospitalized dies, then he will kill a cop with it. Acting tough, he goes through the whole film carrying this stupid gun. I think that Vinz wants nothing but to be political. Yet, because he dropped out of high school, his ability to affect change is only through what he knows. That is it is only through violence that he feels he will be able to say something meaningful. He foolishly disregards the consequences.
It is only at the end, does he realize that he doesn’t have the balls for it. He is confronted with a situation where killing someone with the cop’s gun would rid the world of an extreme racist. Although he knows that this racist is a horrible person, he can not kill him. He has realized that he is not bull headed enough. This conclusion seems to have save him from the fate he wanted at the beginning of the film. And yet it doesn’t.
The look of this film is striking. It is shot in high contrast black and white, several tricks of the camera that does not take away the impact of the film. I love the opening scene of the film, after the credits in particular. It sort of applies to my “fuck the man” attitude. Also look out for a mash up of “fuck the police” in French and one of Edith Piaf’s most famous songs.
This film would be a good companion piece to Le Petit Soldat. It will leave the viewer feeling upset with the stupid authority in the film and in real life. I feel like that is a good thing.