Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Criterion Collection Spine #381
(Foreign language film)
"So far so good... So far so good."
I was not expecting this movie to be about social injustice and unrest, but now I can say it is easily my favorite film within that sub genre. (Keep in mind I have not seen 'Fruitville Station' or "City of God' yet.)
La Haine is a French film that in English translates to 'Hate'. It tells the story of three friends from the projects of Paris who have been involved in some riots recently after one of their friends ended up in the hospital as the result of police brutality. The main characters include a jewish guy named Vinz, a black guy named Hubert, and a Arab guy named Saïd.
I always wondered what it would be like to watch a film like 'Pulp Fiction' that has so much slang and curse heavy dialogue in another language, and I would say the English subtitles in this filled that curiosity.
The movie is presented in a very stylized way that features some really engaging black and white camera work and editing. The themes of social injustice which are often told thru close up shots of the characters reminded me a lot of Spike Lee's 'Do the Right Thing'.
I don't think I even thought about this movie being black and white until a quarter into it, when I realized that I thought Director Mathieu Kassovitz was suggesting that both the police and our main characters being so filled with rage and angst made them only see the world in (black and white) or (good and bad).
The movie does a great job at depicting that there are wrong doings on both sides of the fence in this story. We see the police randomly drop in and harass these guys. There is also a very sad scene where two of the guys get brought into a police station where they get tied to chairs, choked, and receive verbal sexual assaults.
But our main characters are not innocent either as we see them get involved with several situations involving drugs, theft, harassing people at a party, and getting into an altercation with a group of neo-nazis. There are clear indications where the influence of pop culture from the United States has had an impact on the political unrest shown in this story, which is not unlike the images seen during the LA riots. Some of the influence comes from what the characters see in movies and hip-hop music/culture.
For me Vinz was the most interesting character, since he wanted to be the tough guy of the group. Once he finds the gun that the cops lost during the riot, he vows to kill one of them to avenge what happen to their friend in the hospital. There is a great part where Vinz imitates the 'you talking to me' scene that Robert De'Niro has from 'Taxi Driver'. Also the slogan 'The World is Yours' that is seen a couple times in the movie is a reference to the Al Pacino's gangster classic 'Scarface'.
One of the best scenes of the movie is when the main characters are in a bathroom talking about social injustice and reference Rodney King. Then a polite and funny Russian immigrant emerges from a bathroom stall and proceeds to tell them how good it was to be able to go to the bathroom in peace. That's because there was a time in his past when he was sent to the gulags by train, and people did not have this simple luxury. One of the guys is puzzled about why they were told this story. This moment was an excellent way to include another example of a social injustice, where I assume the victims where punished in this extreme way despite not being in trouble with the law. Also there is that very powerful theme presented earlier in this scene about 'Hate breeding hate'.
You will notice that the story is told throughout the course of a day which is represented by a ticking clock that is shown periodically on screen. And that clock is ticking toward the films extremely powerful and thought provoking climax. This build up in the second half of the movie gets started when the guys get themselves stuck in a nicer area of Paris and end up in a situation where they are unable to get home, kind of like in Martin Scorsese's movie ’After Hours’. I like how the guys note that the cops are actually friendly in this part of the city, compared to what they deal with in the projects.
There is a really interesting scene where the guys start talking about this random guy they see on an escalator, and do their own profiling toward him. They describe him as being apart of the right wing political party, and say he does not consider himself as being a racist, but still functions and moves forward in this system/group that they deem to be racist.
The main allegory of the La Haine is the story of a man who jumps from a building and says, "So far so good... So far so good... So far so good."
and they note (It's not how you fall that matters. It's how you land.) So this alludes to the imminent social collisions that are bound to occur within a culturally divided society.
It is a shame how politically relevant this film remains in 2018, and I feel this is an important movie that everyone high school age and older should see. Because IMO the best way to combat this kind of hate, is thru a better understanding and appreciation for each other and our differences.
- Daniel Plainview
Happy movie watching ... SKOL!