berkeleyside says it's not the end of the world (and i don't care?)

la haine (mathieu kassovitz, 1995)

This is the first official film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 1 is called "Popular Quality Week":

Gonna try to start this Season out with a challenge that aims to guarantee you a good watch. The Letterboxd Top 250 allows us to see what our community considers the best of the best. Here's the catch: we're having a bit of a popularity contest. I want you to watch the most popular film you haven't seen on this list. Its well regarded by a significant number of people, so why haven't you seen it yet?

Note: This may fluctuate between the time you create your list and when you start the Challenge. Feel free to stick with your original or you can update it if it changes, up to you.

This week's challenge is to watch the most popular film you haven't seen from the Letterboxd Top 250.

First film, and I'm already cheating. Which is allowed ... the Challenge is complex, but enforcement is lax. In this case, I didn't notice the part where I was supposed to pick "the most popular film I haven't seen". Well, first off, if I can't watch them, I can't pick them, so I eliminated every movie unavailable to me. Still, there were 7 films I should have picked before I ended up with La Haine. However it happened, the guarantee was fulfilled: it was a good watch.

While I thought the cast was mostly unknown to me, that wasn't really true. The biggest name is Vincent Cassel, who I have seen in several movies, most recently the Kristen Stewart movie Underwater. His two co-stars are Hubert Koundé (The Constant Gardener) and Saïd Taghmaoui (American Hustle). The three play Vinz, Hubert, and Saïd, which lends an element of non-fiction to the film, as if they weren't actors but just playing themselves. La Haine gives us a day in the life of three mostly aimless young men from a Parisian suburb. It has some of the feel of Mean Streets, with its emphasis on camaraderie. The plot turns on riots, in part inspired by the police attack on one of their friends. They care about their friend, but over time, it becomes clear that rioting grows less out of a political stance (although they can spout the rhetoric) and more out of boredom. These fellows have no job, no prospects, no hope, and that's not because they are bad people, but because society hasn't got a place for them. It is this that takes La Haine in a different direction from Mean Streets.

Director Mathieu Kassovitz, who was directing only his second feature (he was only 28), opted for black-and-white, which lends itself to the overall documentary feel. It feels like "real life", but there is nothing casual or off-the-cuff about Kassovitz' approach. And his actors rise to the occasion, as they too seem "real", as if their dialogue was improvised. It was not.

La Haine is #644 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time. Among the films others chose to kick off their Challenge were The Godfather, and Mad Max: Fury Road. My brother Geoff, who is taking on the Challenge this year as well, has chosen Whiplash.


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