Appropriately filmed in stark black-and-white, La haine takes us to a Paris that cannot be found on a postcard or in a glossy travel brochure. The Eiffel Tower makes only one appearance, as a distant reminder of a society that has no place for the film's alienated protagonists. When it premiered in 1995 at the Cannes Film Festival, this work of 28-year-old Mathieu Kassovitz, who had previously directed Cafe au lait, arrived with the subtlety and impact of a kick to the head. Inspired by such American urban classics as Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and Do the Right Thing, La haine nevertheless emerged as a work of distinct originality, appropriating its influences to tell a story at once specific and universal. The story's racial and socio-economic tensions are exposed with an unapologetic, in-your-face brutality devoid of the romanticism that often plagues films about life in the "hood;" Kassovitz is more interested in uncovering his protagonists' frailties than idealizing them. Their anger is justified and treated with sympathy, but they are held responsible for their reactions to it. The tragedy that concludes the film does not allow anyone to escape unscathed, a jarring reminder that, as long as racism and other forms of social repression are permitted to exist, we are all both its perpetrators and its ultimate victims.
by Rebecca Flint Marx review