Picture the scene at the Farm. After a nice dinner of herb crusted rack of lamb, with roasted vegetables, we’re sitting down watching Top Gear on TV, when I broach the subject on whether Mrs Sex farm would like to go to the cinema tonight.
Me: So, would you like to see a film tonight?
Mrs Sex Farm: Dunno, what’s on?
Me: Well there’s this film called “Salo: 120 Days Of Sodom”
MSF: what’s it about?
M: Well… it’s this film about a group of wealthy local Italian fascists who kidnap a bunch of teens and subject them to a litany of physical and sexual depravity and torture. Then they kill them.
MSF: Hmm… I’ll think I’ll pass on that.
Sigh… so no artistic sexual depravity for me then. So instead i need some well proper urban drama and social hardness that’s WELL ‘ARD!!
And for tonight’s edition of the SUNDAY CULT FILM CORNER, we have a modern french classic that shows the seething fault lines that lie at the heart of modern French Society. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you LA HAINE (English: Hate).
Directed in 1995 by Mathieu Kassovitz, It stars Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé, and Saïd Taghmaoui as 3 friends living in an impoverished housing project on the outskirts of Paris. Although the three are friends, they are very different personalities. Vinz (Cassel) is the most aggressive, while Hubert (Koundé) is the calmest and wisest, with Said (Taghmaoui) lying between the two in terms of temperament.
After a recent riot where a mutual friend is beaten by the police and lying in a coma, tensions are running high. Vinz finds a police firearm and swear that he will kill a policeman if their friend dies. the film then follows the trio over 17 hours as thy go through their routine while they run the gamut of the police and rival gangs. But will Vinz follow through his obsession of killing the police who he hates so much?
La HAINE is a film that just brims with anger and rage from the off, with the opening credit that contains footage of the police preparing for war, rioting and protesting youths, paired with stark black and white footage, black stenciling for the opening credits, and a burning reggae soundtrack. And it carries it on from there. The people who live on the estate see the police and government entities as the oppressors, the enemy. Meanwhile, the police are depicted as brutal and racist thugs who views the youth of the estates as scum that need to be taught a lesson. but even thought this is a French film, the story it contains can be told in many developed countries all over the world.
The camerawork also helps to add a documentary style that adds to the oppressive nature and feel of the estate, emphasizing the use of dark heavy shadows and showing the grimness of the concrete jungle where even the tree are grey and depressed. What makes LA HAINE stand out is the quality of the acting, that helps to convey the different personalities on display with many of the scenes acted out were improvised between the actors. Cassel burns a vicious hoodlum intensity while while Taghmaoui provides an easy going foil to the anger. But it’s Koundé displaying a serene, introspective charm that centres the film and provides a sense that there may be some way out for these guys.
La Haine does not offer any real answers to the problems depicted, merely to display the realities of modern working class life in the cities. But man it’s certainly a powerful statement.
So get some beers and stash a few molotov cocktails under the coffee table, and watch this incendiary tales from the rough side of the tracks.