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200635036

French Cinema : The 7th Art

To what extent is La Haine a film about a crisis of masculinity in the French Banlieue?
Mathieu Kassovits' "La Haine" has sparked widespread debate about the plight of the Hood and brought these issues to a wide audience. Is La Haine an actual representation of the social class dilemma in France or has the film accentuated this supposed "crisis" into something which it is not? We should try to understand what is meant by a "Crisis of Masculinity", in order to answer these questions. Anthony Giddens, in his works on sociology, states that a crisis of masculinity is, The belief, held by some, that traditional forms of masculinity are being undermined by a combination of contemporary influences, provoking a critical phase in which men are unsure of themselves and their role in society. (Giddens, 2012) Kassovitz's stylization techniques, his American influence, and his Jewish heritage have all doubtlessly given "La Haine" a uniqueness not found in other films. In this essay, I will analyse how this "crisis of masculinity" manifests itself through the three main characters over 24 hours. The unlikely relationships between Vinz, Said, and Hubert work together to draw attention to the scale of the neo-colonialist social crisis in which in they feel trapped. The paradoxical means by which this crisis has been made more evident is through police violence and (Hip Hop) music and their triviality in the crisis will also be assessed. This discussion will lead to the conclusion that La Haine not only depicts a crisis of masculinity amongst the three males in France but also simultaneously the wider (sub)urban crisis with which many countries contend today. These three young males, living in the outer Banlieue or outskirts of the city of Paris, are psychologically trapped, mainly because they feel as though they are being demonized by the society in which they live. Vinz's character demonstrates the attempt of an adolescent who feels trapped by his lack of organic identity striving to become "authentic"; his Jewishness is reminiscent of the May 1968 riots in France (where many Jews protested for greater rights); his inclination to identify with the minority figures of his counterparts reinforces his willingness to connect with something that is "authentic". Sven-Erik Rose notes that Vinz's pursuit for what is real provides a suspenseful repartee that questions the masculine crisis (Rose, October 2007) '. From the outset, Vinz's character tinged with a sense of doom leads the viewer to question how easy it for an unguided "youth" to lose a sense of direction and to resort to unconventional means in their communication with any sector of society with which they cannot identify. Vinz's psychotic radicalized fantasies are the crux of this reality, his acquisition of a policeman's pistol - apart from representing his violent phallic masculinity, point to his weaknesses, with which Hubert and Said are grappling with all the time. An interview with Kassovitz by Positif explains how Vinz' friends much like a psychologist, act to counter-balance this psychotic masculinity through "un regard extrieur" [an outside view] giving direction to the narrative and suggesting that the key points in the film are, in effect, the collisions between the external world surrounding the banlieue and the world of the young children who are constantly reaffirming their imaginary independence from any kind of intervention. Jai voulu faire quelque chose que je nai pas trs bien russi : Je voulais que le film soit vu par la personne la plus en retrait, qui observe ce qui se pass, mais sans juger. (Rose, October 2007) The stylistic use of black and white by Kassovitz helps exemplify this sense of masculine insecurity and the black and white nature of death; the film was originally filmed in colour however these classic macho scenes such as the renowned noir et blanc Vinz and his pistol scene add critical force to the narrative which diverged from the convention colour films of 1995. (Vincendeau, 2005). De Niros Taxi Driver you talking to me scene which Vinz attempts to rein act in his bathroom, attempts through slight alterations of the original script to exemplify this marginalised masculinity. (Sharma, 2000) To begin with De Nero (Bickle) holds an actual pistol whereas Vinz does not although he has stolen one. The camera focus begins with the back of Vinzs head before adopting his view point facing the mirror; this all too clearly draws attention to the solipsistic micro-world in which Vinz finds himself. (Reader, 2002) In this sense, the rejection by Vince and his friends of the good-natured attempt by a journalist to interview them during the riots is a key scene. So too is their inability to relate to the paintings and sculptures in the art gallery, where they notoriously fail to live up to the social moues in place and amuse themselves instead with attempts to chat up the nearest young females. Their behaviour inevitably leads to altercations and their forced departure, after which they, ironically, find themselves in the company of a drunk whose wife, has left him.

200635036

French Cinema : The 7th Art

The promiscuous nature with which Kassovitz plays with violence through Vinz throughout the film depicts the weak aspects of masculinity which all three youths contend with. Vinz, after having said he would kill a cop, is given the opportunity but is saved from insult when Hubert conveniently knocks him out again later on he was fooled by Asterix, and was foolish enough to try rush n roulette finally with the skinhead he backs down from shooting Kassovitzs role. Saids role throughout the film has been downplayed by critics, he is in fact just as important as Hubert, this (outside) view witch Kassovitz attempted to achieve through Hubert has, perhaps accidentally manifested itself just as much with Said. The scene in which Vinz confesses to stealing a policemans gun after Hubert contends Vinzs macho understanding of revenge, Said cleverly remarks avec un truc comme a tes trop le roi dans la cite. This statement helps to reassure Vinzs attempt to prove him-self to his minority counterparts. Although not the voice of reason like Hubert, he aids the group keep knit closely tight. The first scene in the banlieue, after the scenes of Frances real riots were televised, begins with an eye level shot facing Said and then a canted angle shot through his eyes. This techniques employed by Kassovitz suggest he was attempting a point-of-view-shot where we become the eyes of a particular character. (Sharma, 2000) According to Saids point of view we are faced with the paradox of police everywhere and school kids on their way to class. In sense this shows slightly less psychologically marginalized masculinity; Unlike Vinz, Saids identity is clear; he is part of a minority attempting express him-self with conviction, but manifesting his contempt for the state through popular Banlieue culture, his graffiti; as the next scene displays his articulate statement Baise La Police - Said. Again Said, during his visit to Paris passes an advert encouraging people to go on holiday in Morocco; here he has exported his banlieue culture to Paris, once again through his auspicious art. Factors making these youths unsure of their role in society and undermining societys contemporary forms of masculinity are deep rooted in the Banlieues popular culture such as Saids graphiti, Hubert chasing the dragon and Vinzs psychotic violence. Huberts character is categorized is an achiever who had started his own gym and who hold optimised escapade from the plight of the hood. In this sense Hubert portrays his crisis of masculinity in a different manor. Through escapism, the scene where Hubert is smoking a hash joint listening to That lovely feeling by Isaac Hayes; this scene shows how important peace and quiet can be in the banlieue. (Soumahoro) Hubert unlike Vinz reflects upon things logically and is the voice of reason throughout the film. Not only is he the narrator at the beginning of the film - So far so good but he reminds Vinz when he plays up to shoot a skinhead that La Haine attire la Haine which Vinz fails to comprehend. (Vincendeau, 2005) The actions which take place throughout the film, apart from focusing upon marginalised youth in the banlieue also depict the extent to which police violence occurs in the ethnically divided city. To begin with the riots which took place in Paris during the 1989-96 were the result of Police violence and were the people to which the film was dedicated. Ce film est ddi ceux disparus pendant sa fabrication. (Rose, October 2007) Understandably police injustice was huge factor in the making of La Haine. The film commences with real footage of the 1980s riots in France and how Abdel Ichaha was injured in hospital that Vinz, Said and Hubert happen to know. Interestingly that was the same reason why the London riots started in the August 8th 2011, the Police assassination of Smiley Culture (the phonier of UK reggae hip hop) & Mark Duggan (A high-profile London drug dealer) sparked wide spread riots which spread around most of the country. (BBC) Kassovits wanted to shed light on the fact that Police violence when manifesting marginalism and an undermined contemporary professionalism of their own can cause devastation and death. The police violence shown in the film displays itself in different ways, through actual police riot footage, the final accidental gun shot by a policeman who kills Vinz and the police racism acted upon Hubert & Said in a Police cell. In the cell the police act much in the same way the youths do, their misogynist behaviour parallels the youths behaviour, insulting female family members so as to dishonour them. In this scene Kassovitz has used an eye level camera shot, suggesting that we are witnessing this violence from a third perspective in this case, a fellow new policeman that seems disgusted at what is going on. This is attempt for us to take up this point of view and share his disgust for the violence. The popular culture of hip hop in the banlieue forms an incumbent part of the notorious sub(urban) life in areas of Paris such as Clichy Sous Bois , Grigny, Evry and Mantes-la-Jolie. They have produced many talented artists that La Haine Soundtrack incorporates such as the group Expression Direkt. (IMBD, Soundtrack) Kassovitz wanted to represent the disparity of these marginalized youths. In order to do this he had to choose a genre that was culturally ethnically politically and psychologically relevant. Through under toning metaphors Kassovits is able to display this disparity whilst in the art gallery where the kids from la rue crossed with the chic - the Jewish hip hop group from the Bronx The Beastie Boys is playing in the background. A group whose whiteness did not

200635036

French Cinema : The 7th Art

deter them from breaking into a predominantly black music scene much like Vinz and his insatiable hunger to connect with something that is authentic in a midst a world which he cannot relate to. Kassovitz has been subject to a considerable American influence, Spike Lees White Boys Cant Jump After having being chased by police the three kids decide to go to Paris. Whilst on their trip into Paris the three kids enter into a feud only to be interrupted by an older man who spoke about his friend Grunwalski. In essence his story grapples with the difficulties of working on a Siberian camp, and how if one doesnt pick themselves up in time to continue to better places they will inevitably end up in the shit. This dialogue serves several purposes, but with regard to these undermined adolescences they show how any human who feels/is marginalized and does not make an effort to pick himself up will end severely injured. This suggests that its referring to the wider question of Friends marginality relative to: the sub urban area in which they live and their incomprehension of the story, which is further suggestive of three friends who are marginalised from society. However most importantly the story is about failing masculinity; indicating the friends disempowerment, and means of empowerment through unconventional means, a pistol. (Reader, 2002) In conclusion La Haine is a documentary style film. It follows the life of 3 marginalised youths over 24 hours. Their struggles in the French Banlieue are assessed. With the aid of various stylisation techniques these issues are brought to attention with critical force. These techniques include, different camera angle shots, the stylistic choice of Noir et Blanc, the use of authentic characters from the Banlieue and the heavy incorporation of Hip Hop throughout the film. The extent to which this Crisis of Masculinity is demonstrated subtly through indirect metaphors, fabulous imagery, symbolism and personification. Although not immediately apparent, the film successfully follows the lives of these Banlieue street kids whose lack of agency leads them to L a Haine.

Bibliography
http://www.polity.co.uk/giddens7/ - Crisis of Masculinty