La Haine ★★★★★

I'd meant to see La Haine ever since it was released in the cinema. I even rented it once – in the days when I worked in places like the one where it's set – but never got round to watching it.
And I really should have watched it earlier: just as I thought La Règle du Jeu might be easier to appreciate when you're a little older, La Haine strikes me as a film best seen in your teens or twenties.

Young guys on tough estates are kind of the same everywhere, but La Haine seems to take them more seriously than most films & TV. It feels totally real, yet this film also looks fucking cool in a way that nothing else featuring leads in shellsuits ever did. If this had been made in Britain, Saïd, Vinz and Hubert and their 24 hours in the aftermath of a riot would have either been Guy Ritchie-esque jokes, or waist-deep in social realist grit. Instead, we see them as they are, documentary-like - but the supersmooth black and white film, and innumerable fantastic shots of people, of the high-rise flats, and of the centre of Paris give them complete dignity, and allude at once to the sneering, fearful high culture world of the elite that the lads are separated from, to their own occasional aspirations to escape, and to unsatirised, understood but impossible fantasies of being gangsters that are much more subtly interwoven than in any film in this milieu I've ever seen.

The essence of the whole picture is distilled in a perfect minute or two as a guy DJ's at an open window in one of the flats, doing a great scratch mix of a hip hop track “Nique la Police” and “Je ne regrette rien” by Edith Piaf; the camera swoops away from him low on to the three friends and then goes into a panorama of the buildings and landscape of the estate.
It's perfectly realised art, yet film isn't without humour: it's their humour though – we find the same characters weird that the leads do. We're laughing with them, not at them.

Underneath,La Haine can be seen as the serious political film I'd always read it was, but if I'd caught on 15 years ago that it was the French Trainspotting (with an emphasis on all the artiness and seriousness that French film can sometimes imply) I would have approached it much sooner, and in the right frame of mind.

I may not feel much personal connection to La Haine, and it's not a film I'd want to curl up with and rewatch till it was numb but I cannot give anything other than 5 stars to something so perfectly realised as both art and sociopolitical statement.

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