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on 14 June 2005
Released in 1995, 'La Haine' (hate) was an immediate box-office success in France, and achieved critical acclaim winning the Best Director Award at Cannes for Mathieu Kassovitz, then in his late twenties. Kassovitz comes from a family of film makers, and had already established himself as both a promising actor and director.
The film captures the rigid emptiness of life in a sprawling concrete banlieu (housing scheme) on the outskirts of Paris, an environment peopled by those who lack the financial or social clout to live somewhere better. These are Eastern Bloc tenements, characterless boxes in which society's detritus can be stacked, abandoned, and - hopefully - forgotten about.
The film focuses on three lads - somewhat stereotypically a Jew, a North African, and a black African. Life in the banlieu is supposed to be a tale of sanitised boredom - surely the immigrant population should be grateful for admission to the cultural greatness of France and its capital? Only the black youth attempts to make something of it - he has struggled to build a gym and to literally fight his way out of poverty by boxing. The North African youth is an incorrigible thief and poseur. The Jewish lad, meanwhile, poses in front of the mirror, aping De Niro's taxi-driver and playing the hard man.
But the world of the banlieu has imploded in urban riot - a participant sport in which local youths can engage and enrage the CRS, the French riot police, in a game of street chess, complete with petrol bombs and baton rounds. It is, of course, an entertaining spectator sport for the film crews and media. For the rioters, their fifteen minutes of fame come courtesy of news broadcasts.
The Jewish boy finds a handgun, dropped by one of the riot police. Now he can finally imitate De Niro. He has power, he has status, because he has a gun. All he needs now is a pretext to use it, something to legitimise the pulling of the trigger.
Shot in black and white, 'La Haine' is a tale of escalating tension, a deconstruction of the alienation experienced by young men who perceive mainstream society as a closed door and who can conceive of no future for themselves. Its institutions, even the family, have no hold on them. The presence of the police within the banlieu seems an invasion of what little space they call their own - they have their own values, their own morality. They are at the bottom of the ladder: the riot police seem to be there simply to remind them that they can be squashed at will.
The film achieves a documentary quality - it is reminiscent of 'The Battle for Algiers', it reconstructs the banlieu as a sort of casbah, complete with rooftop living. Rioting in France, of course, has a slightly different context from rioting in Britain. Street riots are historically associated with revolution. But the riots, here, are devoid of any overt, focused political cause or objectivity. They are simply oppositional. You almost sense that the CRS like to have a more than virtual reality training suite like this - whenever they want to practice their riot duties, they simply drive in and give the locals a bit of a stir.
It's the sheer arrogance of both sides which comes across. Their actions are amoral and pointless ... other than in fighting an opponent. The youths are never going to win, but neither are the police. Properly orchestrated, it could become a tourist attraction - "Hey, let's go to Paris, watch a riot!" Who would want to go to Eurodisney when they could have this?
Kassovitz extends a sympathetic hand to the young men. The banlieus were synonymous with social exclusion and had become a focus of French populist and often racist politics since the 1970's - decaying, impoverished, rife with crime and drugs, and damned with indelible social stigma ... try getting a job when you have to declare your postcode and admit where you live! The residents were socially, economically, culturally, and politically excluded from ... if not actively rejected by mainstream French society.
Originally inspired by the shooting of 16-year old black youth in 1993 (it attracted little or no media attention at the time), Kassovitz was influenced by a number of directors (Spike Lee is often cited, but Kurosawa was an influence, and there is a whole dynamic of French films which feature disaffected youth and which employ a drama-documentary approach and social realist techniques). It's an extraordinarily impressive and powerful piece of cinema, its impact made all the greater by its low budget, its lack of star names, and indeed, by its moral ambiguity.
The tension builds almost unbearably to an inevitable conclusion in what is, above all, a superb piece of filmmaking. The DVD, however, let Kassovitz down. In the original release, the sub-titles are almost indecipherable - they are lost against the black and white of the film, and translate the French into Americanisms which lose much of the force of the language. The special edition resolves this, making the action much easier to follow - so go for that. 'La Haine' is already a classic piece of French - and European - cinema, and is a must watch for any true film fan.
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A grit grey concrete stark cinematic punch into the steel ribs of the French cultured and refined habitus, as we see beyond the social facade in the centre of the cultured chamber pot; the ghettoisation and marginalisation of la problem - the disenfranchised. Herded from view they live unattached to the Parisian womb except by journeying into the metropolis by the umbilical train track.

In response they have "created" a culture of their own, or rather purloined one from the same marginalised populations in America. So in come beat boxes, djing, graffiti art, cannabis, hip hop, break dancing and guns. Except with a french twist - the riot.

The gun seemingly defines the man, Glock, Walther, Smith and Wesson or Desert Eagle and in the embryonic world of the Cannnabis dispenser, it is a functional requirement. During the period this was set, mid 90's guns, like BMW's were totems of status and respect - they still are.

Out of sight has gone the land of mundane work and all the trappings that exist with it, aspiration. In its stead has come the life of the gangsta, dreams of violent revenge as all self made visions fall of buildings or go up in clouds of smoke.

Ranged against these anti social enterprises are the militarised police, acting to contain and maintain "docile bodies" within its social sphere; a mixture of arabs, blacks, jews and poor indigenous. Parisian poor, now locked away from the centre can be contained within these peripheral housing estates so when they riot, they only smash up their own facilities. The state wins by pointing out their innate animality and who would want them living within any social spitting distance? The police are provided with full reign to go as far as possible in restraining the young men and is someone dies, then whoops, we can always say they were carrying a gun and plant some stories in the media about their fecklessness. Of course it would never happen in the UK.

All portrayed with full graphic brutality within the film as the violence veers from sadistic to brutal within a polarity of power engagement. The police are the enemy within, the agents of domination who no longer seek to protect but just kettle the people within their self maintained desolate conditions.

The film takes a swipe at any romanticism showing how the destruction and rioting as cutting the heels of the inhabitants and leaving them further behind. Whilst at the same time it is the only way they can bring the alienated brutality of their everyday existence to a wider mediated notice. The poor are effectively entrapped in a double bind with drug dealing, violence and prison the effective constraints siphoning their young men into the black markets where they can be scooped up by the police into the prepared pens.

The media cameras come down to seek vital footage to relay back to the sanitised world the feral images and make the socially included shudder, there but for the genetic code I inherited would go I. The men eventually break out of their estate to meet Asterix but their innate rage betrays them as outsiders as they try to fit into the refined elite. Eventually they are re- arrested by the Parisian police and shown a welcome.

With the hatred bristling from both sides a tit for tat world has been erected in which violence escalates on a spitting Catherine Wheel dynamic until the films credits roll in. It is a brave searing, somewhat accurate account of a lifestyle of containment, which can be translated into any culture. For those who inhabit the refined "habitus" who do not get it, this is why the "hate" exists. It is because you do not get it.

Since its release and this film has highlighted the problems the situation described still remaineds unresolved except instead of cannabis, crack and heroin would be the number one best sellers.
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on 15 January 2003
Hi, Yes, i'm French and saw La haine when it was out at the cinema. I loved it but everybody didn't thought the same (kind of the same feeling as for marmite for UK people). It's not easy to watch, there is a lot of French-city-talking that can't be properly translated and yes, as you've understood from other reviews, it's in B&W. If you feel responsible enough to buy it thengood for you. if, you manage to watch it until the end I'm sure you will not say the usual "well, it was OK but stalone would have been good in the middle"... No, it's really a very very good film. It will explain you exactly what's going on in french suburbs of Paris. Don't be afraid to go to France though as you will luckily not see that. it's iden from tourists.
On the film direction : nothing to say about the actors. they are just fantastic and no-one would have been better than them. M kassovitz is so good as a film director (as well as actor, see Amelie). He's got a real knowledge of the photography as well. The end is completely unexpected but better than what you saw in the sixth sense.... have a good film.
Oh! I forgot, o buy it, it's certainly worth having it in your collection of DVDs.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 May 2015
The irony of the billboard ad that Hubert Koundé's Afro-French frustrated (but aspiring) inner-city 'ne-er do well', Hubert, is confronted with through the train window is not lost on him (nor us) and the visceral power, realism and innovation of actor-writer-director Mathieu Kassovitz's 1995 film remains evident and undiminished 20 years on. Indeed, it's a subject matter (disillusioned youth on run-down urban estates and all that goes with it - poverty, crime, family breakdown, social alienation, hatred of, and brutality dealt out by, the police, etc) that has perhaps been done to death in recent years, but Kassovitz's film (which takes place over a single day) remains one of its outstanding examples, not least as a result of its intoxicating style (Pierre Aim's stunning black-and-white cinematography combining fast-moving, dynamic sequences and brilliant framing), riveting mix of brutal action and street-wise comedy, plus the superb acting performances from its central (largely novice) cast.

Kassovitz's use of music is also nicely judged as we're confronted with real-life Parisian riots (and their aftermath) to the tune of Bob Marley's Burnin' And Lootin', whilst elsewhere we have the likes of Isaac Hayes, The Beastie Boys, Cameo and The Gap Band, reflecting a multi-ethnic mix. Racial diversity and tensions are to the fore as we're introduced to the extended, dysfunctional families of central trio Hubert, Vincent Cassel's synagogue-skipping, violently loose cannon, Vinz, and Said Taghmaoui's more comedic 'Arab', Said (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Kassovitz's film, if you like) - the acting trio delivering admirably, individually and as a group. La Haine's narrative (such as it is) focuses on the group's (potential) search for vengeance against the police as result of injury to a local rioter, but this takes something of a backseat as Kassovitz's episodic tale draws out (via some impressive ensemble scenes) themes of trust, loyalty and family ('Don't try to order me around - I don't know you') and the potentially exacerbating effect on local tensions of intrusive media.

Kassowitz depicts particularly well the knife-edge on which his central trio exist - with Hubert and Said struggling to restrain Vinz from his violent intentions (having discovered a police gun lost during the riot). The film-maker also keeps us largely in the dark (other than via the opening riot scenes) as to his trio's motivations - until, over an hour in, we get an 'in your face' example of police racism and brutality (directed against Hubert and Said). The mood is lightened somewhat by some hilarious moments of off-beat comedy (which are key to the film's success) - such as Vinz and Said arguing over a haircut, the trio encountering a philosophical stranger in the gents and the group arguing over cartoon characters. This latter sequence called to my mind Tarantino, one apparent influence for the film among many (including particularly Scorsese's Mean Streets and Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing). And, just when we thought we may be able to relax Kassowitz hits us with what is a stunning (and stark) denouement.
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on 4 November 2011
This is one of my favourite films for a wide range of reasons. Unfortunately, on most occasions that this has been released in the UK, it has been butchered by its distribution company. The first DVD release (by Tartan Video) had a dreadful picture transfer, and attempted to superimpose white-text subtitles over a full-screen black and white picture. White on white does not show up well, meaning that many of the subtitles were totally illegible. The same thing has happened with the recent Blu-Ray release and although the BR picture transfer is absolutely superb, the subtitle issue will ruin the movie for many non-francophones. To make matters worse, both the Tartan Video and Blu-Ray release use a heavily Americanised interpretation of the subtitles, with many cultural references being lost on a UK audience.

The Criterion Special Edition DVD release, on the other hand, is the best all-round version of this film. True, the picture is nowhere near as good as the Blu-Ray release, but it is still excellent. The subtitles are superior to the Tartan DVD and Blu-Ray release in every respect: they are superimposed over the bottom black portion of the letterbox display format and they have been rewritten to make perfect sense to a UK audience.

Overall: a great film which has been badly let down by shoddy, lazy distributors in the UK. However, go for the Criterion Special Edition DVD release and you get the best available treatment.
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on 9 January 2007
The two reviewers below seem to have totally missed the point to this film. John Evans' asserion that it is "made for middle class lefties, by middle class lefties" is an affront to the themes of this film.The other reviewer says "It's a pitty you don't get it dubbed in english, specially if you don't speack french." This also misses the point-you wouldn't have the guttral impact of the dialogue in this film if it were dubbed. French is a very expressive language and the performers would look ridiculous if English was spewing out of their mouths.

La Haine (Hate) is about normal people who live in abnormal conditions, not necessarily the WORST poverty in the world but they are not getting their fair share. Like a lot of people. The housing estates outside Paris have been enflamed again recently and this kind of proves that this is an important, polemical film that has lost none of its resonance in the eleven years since its release.

As well as the powerful story you have stylish direction and a beautiful black and white presentation. This film will not appeal to people who can't read and watch pictures at the same time, or "idiots" as I call them. Just because a film is subtitled it doesn't mean you should deride it. Neither should it be shot down as a propoganda film for "middle class lefties"-it is a depiction of the events in on day of the lives of people you may not at first understand, but will eventually come to respect and feel empathy and sympathy for (if you have human emotions at least).

A triumph in European cinema.
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on 20 April 2006
La Haine is an absolute cinematic masterpiece not just for its social commentary but how it infuses the personal into the public and the profound understanding of the characters and the realities that they face. It shows how feelings of hatred between friends are overcome by the deepest love in ways that a romantic fiction could only scratch the surface.

It is a story based on a day in the lives of three close friends from France's equivalent of council estates in the aftermath of heavy rioting in their neighbourhood. The film looks at the reactions of the three individuals to the disturbances and how these attitudes change as the events of the day cause the friends to gain a deeper understanding of each other. Although the plot of the film doesn't exclusively centre on this it becomes central in the final tragedy. Kassovitz' ability to draw the viewer into identifying with the three characters may mean that this review is of the objective persuasion but isn't that the beauty of cinema?

The only complaint i would have would be with the absolute mess-up that has been created with the "improved" translation. The original English subtitles were in cockney English and this dialect probably has the closest relevance to the context of the film that can be achieved within the English language. The American English translation on this latest edition throws the film halfway across the globe and fills it with blatant inaccuracies.

Although this edition is full of such instances examples can be seen when the trio are thrown out of the art gallery and when the door has been closed the gallery owner laments "troubled youth" what he actually said was "kids from the suburbs" which has a completely different meaning as it is intended as an example of the prejudices they regularly run into. Also when Hubert and Said are at the bottom of an escalator in the early hours of the morning a reference to people who vote La Pen is changed to "right" voters which again seriously alters its meaning.

It can only be imagined that these changes where made to sell the film to an American audience. A great folly as it is well known Americans have no interest in European cinema and the few that do would surely have the intelligence to understand a foreign dialect. I would therefore advice everyone to buy a copy of the old edition second hand if your French isn't great. But if that isn't possible just bear with the cringing awfulness of the ridiculous scribbles that appear at the bottom of the screen and just watch this film. (it may even convince you to learn French just to better appreciate it - its that good)
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on 17 December 2000
La Haine gives you an insight into what was happening during real events from a pretty much neutral p.o.v., though we follow three characters whose different backgrounds and races add a huge amount of quality to the film as they express their veiws on police brutality in Paris both verbally and physically. Dont expect anything due to its colourlessness or its french dialect with sub-titles, and accept that the best films dont come out of hollywood.
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on 10 October 2006
Had to respond to another reviewer's assessment. Basically although the film may be gritty, hard-hitting, controversial, a shocking indictment of XYZ, yadayada, most reviews are not mentioning that it is also in parts just really breathtakingly funny. The constant back-and-forth and all-talking-at-once dialogue between the three main characters, which was mostly improvised between actors who knew each other well already from other projects, is razor-sharp, witty, nuanced, playful and just really cool, is full of FABULOUS convoluted ways to mortally insult people, which is always useful, and is often just cutting, skillful wordplay like good, fast narrative rap. This gets overlooked 'cos La Haine has been crippled by THE most hideously botched subtitling job EVER, where some bunch of clowns in an ad agency in Ohio with five words of French between them and a bunch of Cypress Hill records took ten minutes to throw together a cod South-Central "gangsta" script that is inarticulate, dull, clumsy and repetitive and completely misses the intelligence and wit of the dialogue by a mile. They also bodged every single reference to French culture and politics, whether 'cos they didn't get it or 'cos they thought the audience wouldn't I don't know, but this in particular was a real disservice to what the film was saying about the specific situation in France at the time. Just one example, where Said says to Vince at one point something like "what are you, a cross between Moses and Bernard Tapie", (Tapie being a minor corrupt politician and tabloid-fodder controversial wheeler-dealer manager of Marseille FC) this is shown as as "between Moses and Mickey Mouse" - who? Whats the excuse there then? Like there's no US/UK equivalent they could have used? Ross Perot? Neil Hamilton? Ron Atkinson? I have watched La Haine way too many times, as you can tell, and although I still find the written text a necessary basic prop to keep up with this way non-standard backslangy fast idiom, every time I watch it I understand a bit more of the nuances and realise just how much the subtitles have missed. Absolute bleeding traversty. Kassovitz should so get Mike Skinner and Mos Def together to redo the translation for the 20th anniversary edition (Matthieu! Get your people to phone my people! Later daaahling, MWAH!)- the reception of the film would be TOTALLY different, and much more what it deserves. On another point the really close interdependence and affection between the main characters is dead sweet, to use a technical term, makes a lovely positive counterpoint to the violence of the events of the film, and makes what happens even more powerful and moving. Also if you enjoyed the film do yourself a favour and watch Metisse too and also check out the first three Assassin albums. My two centimes.
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As you've probably gathered most of the reviews are for the 'DVD' version of the controversial "La Haine".
And the BLU RAY is available in a number of territories. But which issue to buy if you live in Blighty?

Unfortunately the uber-desirable USA Criterion release is REGION-A LOCKED - although it doesn't say so on Amazon.
So it WILL NOT PLAY on most UK BLU RAY players unless they're chipped to play 'all' regions (which the vast majority aren't).
Don't confuse BLU RAY players that have multi-region capability on the 'DVD' front - that won't help.

Luckily the REGION B release will play on UK machines (even if some say it isn't as good a print).

Check you're purchasing the right version before you buy the pricey Criterion release...
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