Mathieu Kassovitz


7.8 La Haine/ Hate (1996) Links:

Mathieu Kassovitz directed the black-and-white film La Haine/ Hate (1996), inspired to real riots of 1993, which follows a day in the lives of three friends. After the riots, their daily routine of dirty money and small crimes is hijacked by an endless confrontation with the police. It is one of the great neorealist films of all times, while also being a psychological study and a thriller. It recasts the juvenile delinquents of Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause (1955) into a society torn apart by racial tensions and unemployment. Far from being just a tragic sociopolitical fresco, the film contains many funny, comedic scenes. The cinematography is often stunning, with dozens of iconic, metaphorical images. The film begins with the voiceover philosophizing about the man who falls from the skyscraper and, as he passes one floor after the other, keeps thinking "so far so good". Of course, it's not about how you fall but about how you land. Then we see historical footage of mass protests that end in riots. Then a TV journalist says that a young Arab, Abdel Ichacha, has been wounded and is in a coma. Then the camera introduces Said who writes an obscene graffiti. Said wakes up his Jewish friend Vinz who lives with granma and sister. Vinz walks to the bathroom and plays Travis Bickle from the film Taxi Driver in the bathroom mirror. After breakfast with granma and sister, the two friends walk to the gym of their black boxer friend Hubert. The gym has been devastated by a fire. The trio walks out together. While Hubert buys drugs from a dealer, Said tells Vinz that he doesn't see the point of the riots while Vinz tells him that he wants to avenge Abdel's death. They walk up to the rooftop of the building where several groups of young people are congregating to eat and chat. Said steals a hot dog from a vendor because he doesn't have money, and is saved by his brother Nordine who then slaps him in the head. Then Said sits down with a group of friends who are discussing the fact that a cop lost his revolver during the riots, while Vinz talk to Hubert about having to go to jail for a small robbery. The kids get excited when they see from the rooftop that the "mayor" is coming to the building. It's a local friendly cop who comes to tell them to leave the rooftop. Nordine, who is the boss of the gang, objects but tells his little brother Said to leave. Said leaves with Hubert and Vinz and others while Nordine keeps confronting the cop. The trio stops in a playgroup where Said boasts about a sex adventure when suddenly the van of a TV station stops and two people stick out of the van, a man who starts filming them and a woman who shouts questions at them about the riot. The trio send them away, then they visit their friend Wal-Mart, who owes Said some money, but Wal-Mart is not in a good mood: the rioters burned his car, his only valuable belonging. They watch the news about the riots on Wal-Mart's broken TV set. Wal-Mart too makes a reference to the revolver lost by a cop. They meet a younger kid who tells them a story about a prank played on a celebrity. The kids leaves and Said runs to a car that stopped nearby. He comes back saying that Abdel's brother has a shotgun and want revenge. Hubert asks them if they want to visit Abdel at the hospital. At that point Vinz confesses that he has the missing revolver. He takes them to the garage where he hid it. Hubert gets anxious that Vinz is going to do something stupid. Vinz takes the gun with him. The trio walks into the hospital to visit Abdel but the cops don't allow it because Abdel is in a coma. Said insists and gets arrested, while Hubert and Vinz are driven away by a social worker who explains to them that the cops are there to protect Abdel and his family. The social worker gets Said out of jail in a police station that has been raided by rioters. Said and Hubert shake hands with him but Vinz refuses because he works with the cops. As they walk away, Vinz reveals that he is carrying the revolver. Hubert gets extremely upset that Vinz is trying to get them into serious trouble. Hubert walks home where his sister is doing her homework and their mother is struggling to make ends meet. Hubert's older brother Max is in jail. He tells his mom that Vinz is going mad like Max. Hubert just wants to leave town. He locks himself in his room and smokes marijuana. Meanwhile Vinz and Said are stealing food at a grocery store runs by an old Vietnamese. A dj practicing in his room plays "Fuck the Police" while the camera flies over the neighborhood. Said and Vinz walk into Vinz's place. Vinz offers to cut Said's hair but Said gets upset that Vinz ruins his hairstyle by cutting it too short. They walk into an empty building where Said finds his sister and gets into an argument with her. Hubert doesn't talk to them and keeps watching a hip-hop dancer. They all run out when they hear gunshots: Abdel's brother shot the social worker, but only wounded him. Cops soon arrive and start beating up the crowd. Hubert the boxer kicks a couple of them allowing himself, Said and vinz to escape. They get into a train to downtown Paris. In a restroom they argue about Vinz's intention to avenge Abdel's death if he dies. Hubert is the pacifist, arguing that hate breeds hate. They are interrupted by an old man who has just finished shitting in one of the stalls, who comes out calmly telling them a story of when in the Soviet Union the dissidents were deported to concentration camps. They got off to shit but one was shy and wanted to hide behind a bush. When the train restarted, the shy one was left behind and froze to death. The trio listens to him puzzled as to what the meaning of the tale is. They take a train and witness a procession of poor people begging for money, while Said talks about the girl he wants, Mina. Said is looking for a man nicknamed Asterix who owes him money. They look for the address and find out that he lives in a very nice apartment. Asterix welcomes them with a gun in his hand and tells them that a friend lent him the apartment. Asterix is a deranged drug addict and challenges Vinz to Russian roulette. Asteriz pulls the trigger and then demands that Vinz does the same. Vinz instead points the gun at Asterix. Said and Hubert push him out of the apartment and then Asterix reveals that he had removed the bullets from the gun: he was bluffing, but still exposed Vinz as a coward. Outside the building Said and Hubert are immediately arrested by plainclothes police while Vinz manages to run away and hide in a movie theater. The sadistic cops torture Said and Hubert in front of a novice to show him how to do it without going too far, then they release the hapless duo but too late to catch the last train home. Vinz watches a boxing match and meets friends there. It is now late evening. He drives around with these friends in a stolen sport car, sitting in the back of the car and witness them shooting the owner of a store. They meet Vinz at the train station. The trio walks out in the deserted streets. The only thing that is open is an art gallery, where they mock the avantgarde art and indulge in the free food and drinks. When they get aggressive with some pretty girls, the gallery owner kicks them out. Hubert walks out with the wallet of one of the guests. They try to steal a car in the deserted street. At first the alarm goes off and they run away, but then the alarm stops and they find a way to start the car. A crazy drunk man helps them, after telling them that his wife left him. But none of the three kids knows how to drive. The drunk warns them that a police car is approaching. The three jump out of the car and run away while the crazy man jumps in front of the police car to stop it. It is now middle of the night. They smoke marijuana and Hubert tells Vinz the parable of the man who is falling from the skyscraper. The break into a shopping mall and stare at the giant monitor that is showing the news and then suddenly the breaking news that Abdel just died. Vinz, angry, daydreams of killing a cop. Hubert, fed up with Vinz's homicidal mood, leaves him behind and Said follows suit. Hubert and Said are attacked by skinheads armed with sticks. Vinz comes to their rescue with his revolver and drags one in an alley, determined to shoot him. This time the pacifist Hubert encourages him to kill until Vinz gives up, revealing that he is not the tough gangster that he pretends to be: Hubert's therapy worked. At dawn Vinz surrenders the gun to Hubert. Hubert is calmly walking hom when he sees a police car stopping in front of his pals. The cops get out of the car and arrest Said and Vinz. Hubert walks towards the scene. One of the cops points his gun at Vinz's head and makes fun of him and the accidentally shoots him in the head. Hubert pulls out his gun (Vinz's gun). Hubert points his gun at the cop and the cop points his gun at Hubert. Said stares horrified and then closes his eyes. We hear the gunshot but we don't see who got killed. We hear Hubert's voice repeat the lines of the beginning, except that this time it is not a man who is falling from a skyscraper but the society as a whole: "What matters is how you land".

Les Rivieres Pourpres/ The Crimson Rivers (2000) and Gothika (2003) were vastly inferior films.

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