it’s how you land

August 3, 2007 at 6:01 pm 3 comments

Mathieu Kassovitz‘s film, La Haine, could be labeled with several reductive plot tags: police brutality, multiracial friends, what we would call in the US, “ghetto life.” None of these tags, with their conventional associations, adequately suggest the ennui of the Parisian banlieues. In numerous scenes the friends are shown sitting around with nothing to do but talk. “Hey Vinz, did you hear the one about the Nun?”

Impotence and rage are the inflections of these conversations. They are the subtext of the banlieue that the characters take with them when they are nabbed by the police in Paris, and at home. No job. No prospects. No future.

“Hey Vinz,” Hubert asks, “you know the one about the falling man? He keeps saying as he falls, so far so good, so far so good, but it’s not how you fall. It’s how you land.” This metaphoric landing, in the context of the film, suggests the impact of the impass between the persecuted sub-proletariat, and the police.

The result is tragedy. Police who are good, a minority in the film, are injured. Some of the film’s protagonists, whom the viewer has come to care about, die. What Kassovitz manages brilliantly is the refusal to show a winner. The visual quality of the film is the only black and white on offer. Both sides lose.

And this loss is prescient without pandering for liberal restraint. Capitalism creates inevitable and relentless tragedy. Recent history has picked up where La Haine left off. The second nature of capitalist modernity is actually rent by class struggle. Hegel’s owl of minerva has yet to fly the coup. And a realistic film like La Haine, beautifully shot, cannot help but serve the project of utopia by teaching us to no longer look for a winner, or winning. What we want, all of us, is out.

Check out Raccoon’s entry on La Haine, here.

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Entry filed under: Film, Hate, La Haine, Mathieu Kassovitz, movie, thurs afternoon.

dance from Band of Outsiders “i’m bored with you”

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jeremy B  |  August 4, 2007 at 2:54 am

    Nice write-up! Put the disc back in the mail this afternoon; thanks for the loan!

  • 2. anaj  |  August 4, 2007 at 9:57 am

    Hey, you’ve been watching a couple of good films lately! I love Godard, which may be a surprise because my resilience in watching art films isn’t too high. But I was lucky enough to take a Godard seminar in my second semester of studies which paved the way of unconditional love of Godard. And Alphaville is probably my favourite (my least liked Godard is Le Mépris though). I need to find a scene on youtube where the ruler speaks.

    And La Haine remains the best ‘ghetto movie’ to date. Too bad that what has come out of America in that department has so far not been able to shake off the fetters of Hollywood narrative (including RIZE, although I was thoroughly blown away by that movie).

  • 3. skunkcabbage  |  August 4, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    @Jeremy: thanks, and my pleasure. Enjoyed your write-up, too. One of the delights of film club is finding out what we think after the film, and then finding out what we think when it gets written up. And then pondering where we’ll be headed next.

    @anaj: I love the ground-wet-gravel voice of Alpha 60! Godard makes me very, very happy. How fortunate to have a seminar on him! Somehow I’ve managed to never take a class on film. I’m trying to give myself a quick education. This week I’m on to German Expressionism. I just watched Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and will be viewing the original Nosferatu to be followed later by Werner Herzog’s update.

    I’ve not seen RIZE. Not that great? Raccoon has mentioned Spike Lee as a possible next direction. I’m actually not that familiar with ghetto movies, beyond a faint memory of seeing Boyz in the Hood.

    I find interesting the way Cassovitz lovingly quotes Scorsese. Makes me want to revisit Taxi Driver, which, if I keep watching all these movies, may become a personal reality. 😉


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