Was La Haine hip hop's first full-on venture in to the world of (good) art house film? I'm well aware that over a decade ago the downtown nyc modern art scene embraced films like Wild Style, Downtown '81 & Style Wars because of the graffiti aspect and Rammellzee had a cameo in Jarmusch's art house masterpiece; Stranger Than Paradise (along with commercial attempts to cash in on the Hip-Hop/Graffiti craze like Turk 182 which, in opinion, owes true graffiti artist; Taki 183 royalties), but I cant think of a true hip-hop film that got the kinda worldwide exposure & recognition that La Haine got at the time of its release (the scene where our three main characters in La Haine go to the art museum is very reminiscent of the scene in Wild Style where Fab 5 Freddy & Lee go to the upscale party full of rich artsy elitists)...
|(L-R: Jean Michel Basquiat in Downtown 81, Fab 5 Freddy in Wildstyle & Rammellzee in Stranger Than Paradise)|
writer, director) but due to his post-La Haine work, as a director he joins the ranks of other "sellout" filmmakers like Neil Labutte, John Singleton, David Green, etc. Cut it any way you want but you can’t go from In The Company Of Men to Death At A Funeral (Labutte) or All The Real Girls & Snow Angels to The Sitter (Green). It’s hard to believe the director responsible for Gothika & Babylon AD is also responsible for one of the best and most socially conscious films from the 90's. Only recently has Kassovitz returned to more politically fueled work. La Haine centers around three best friends, each of a different nationality/ethnic background, over the span of a 24 hour period, living in the midst of a very volatile time in Paris - Said (Arab), Vinz (Jewish) & Hubert (West African). Said is the small, talkative, almost comedic relief of the group, Vincent is the more angry & hot-headed of the three, while Hubert is the most level headed and is pretty much the leader. After one of their friends/acquaintances is killed under shady circumstances during a riot, Vinz gets a gun and makes a pact with himself to kill a random police officer before the day is over. During the course of the film they run from the police (Said & Hubert eventually become victims of police brutality), get caught up in a riot, steal a car, crash an upscale party and have a run-in with a gang of skinheads and an ending that highlights the pointlessness of senseless violence. Beyond the focus on Hip-Hop and social/political issues, La Haine is known for its cinematography. The cinematography is what sets La Haine apart from Juice. The two films are definitely spiritually connected but the La Haine is ahead of Juice in terms of craft (which is kind of disappointing because Ernest Dickerson is a masterful cinematographer, responsible for some of Spike Lee's best work, but it didn’t really show in Juice). The camerawork in La Haine has you going; "how did they pull that off" or will have you playing certain scenes back and a lot of the shots are long & unedited. Besides Juice, La Haine nods at other films like Taxi Driver (there's a scene early on in the film where Vinz reenacts the "you talkin' to me?" scene). Certain shots are reminiscent of Bergman's Persona and the black & white cinematography reminds me of Jarmusch's Down By Law & Dead Man.
|La Haine (1995) Persona (1967)|