La Haine (The Criterion Collection) Blu-ray
After being unavailable on any format for almost a decade, this triumphant and shocking tale of urban violence and racial tension finally made it to DVD a few years ago – on the illustrious Criterion label no less. Now the prestigious vendor gives this unflinching portrait of explosive racial tension the blu-ray treatment. This two disc set features, among other things, an English language commentary track, deleted scenes, behind the scenes featurette, a fifteenth-anniversary retrospective and, of course, the outstanding film itself.
“A man falls from the top of a tall building. As he falls he reassures himself 'so far so good, so far so good.'” Writer and director Mathieu Kassovitz offers his take on the somewhat precarious relationship between the French establishment and its substantial immigrant and minority population, which has boiled over into violence on more than a few occasions in recent decades. It is worth noting that the opposition party in France is a far right, nationalist group and while they have been defeated in the last few elections, their views carry weight and their followers are massing.
La Haine, which translates to simply “Hate” follows a day in the lives of Vinz, Said and Hubert, three French minority youths in the wake of a riot in and around a Paris housing project. Police beat their friend, Abdel, during the riot and he now lies in a hospital bed in a coma. Vinz has recovered a policeman's gun from the riot and vowed to use on a cop if Abdul dies. Hubert fails to see what good that will do, asking Vinz if he thinks all cops will go away if he shoots one? Said walks the path of ambivalence between his friends, wanting nothing more than to go uptown to get some money he is owed, maybe score some weed, and just get through one day without any trouble with the police or the skinheads.
Simply following these three around for a day, doing what they do, is a powerful, emotional commentary on race relations in a country that is in actuality one of the most socially conservative countries in the western world. These boys are pissed off; disenfranchised and not once given the benefit of the doubt. Witness two police officers instructing a new recruit on how to correctly beat on suspects without going so far as to leave visible evidence. It’s all just another day in a Paris that is far from the Champs Elysees or the fashionable West Bank.
So they roam, checking out the local electronics fence for his wares. Uptown, where they are amazed at how polite the police are, they snaffle some free food at an open evening art gallery, before making a scene and being escorted out of course. Utilizing a roaming approach through sprawling series of locales and an intimate and visual style, Kassovitz paints a picture of an endless concrete suburbia serving as a makeshift prison for these marginalized and forgotten people to while away their lives in poverty, get into altercations with the racist Paris police and slowly build up a reservoir of resentment of volatility. His choice of seeing this world in stark, high contrast, black and white is not an accident and the steady, meditative pace is punctuated by explosive moments of rage and bigotry, from both sides, as they struggle to coexist each day. So far so good, so far so good…