La Haine ★★★½

1995 Cannes Film Festival (In Competition)

An impressive albeit mixed bag. The first half of La Haine is rife with posturing, both on the part of the characters and Kassovitz. One feeds the other: the three leads are defined entirely by their various degrees of outrage, and Kassovitz's wide-angle close-ups unnecessarily underscore the characters' every emotion, letting us know this is all very serious indeed. The introduction of the gun is just as manipulative as the HIV diagnosis in Kids, which at least has the courtesy not to inspire incessant, overheated argument on the subject.

And yet, the second half is simply extraordinary, dissolving most of my skepticism. Kassovitz’s flashy tics subside once the trio arrives in the city, deflating much of the urgency without going soft in any way. As they languish in these unfamiliar surroundings, they begin to let their guard down and, in doing so, emerge as individuals. The borrowed mannerisms (trying really hard not to call them “film school” or “Spike Lee”) return for the ending, but it’s nonetheless powerful and provocative.

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