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La Haine [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0; DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Run Time: 97 Mins.
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 8, 2012
  • List Price: $39.95

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)


The Film

[Rating:4.5/5]

The amalgamation of immigrants into France has been a bumpy ride for decades. While France has prided itself on liberté, égalité, fraternité, this motto does not appear to ring true for the ethnic minorities portrayed in this film. In La Haine (Hatred), director Mathieu Kassovitz makes a strong statement about the times, circa mid-1990’s, with an odd trio of Arab (Said Taghmaqui), African (Hubert Kounde), and Jew (Vincent Cassel), who work their way in and out of trouble with the authorities and alternative social elements. Casting this as a film noir with a contemporary soundtrack enhances the tension of the relatively short time span that is covered.  Said, Hubert, and Vinz belong to the disenfranchised, unemployed youth growing up in the banlieus (projects) and their rather aimless existences. There is an obvious Martin Scorsese influence here, for example, Vinz’s impersonation of the Travis Bickel “you talkin’ to me?” scene from Taxi Driver. But La Haine is much more than an imitation of the mean streets cinema genre. Director Kassovitz stamps his own perspective on the seething social unrest that culminated in bloody riots and the election of president Nicholas Sarkozy.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

It was a bold move to make a film noir in the ‘90’s. The strategic shots of the protagonists highlight their ethnic differences and, yet, their oddly crafted camaraderie makes this a moving drama. While it might appear that the cinematographers were winging it,  a good bit of the time, one of the supplemental features on this film clearly indicates otherwise. Kassovitz’s composition of scene after scene is brilliant, sometimes highlighting the backdrop, at other times, the characters in the foreground. The close ups are often the in-your-face type, giving an edgy intimacy to the proceedings. Detail is excellent.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The surround soundtrack supports the action without being excessively self-conscious. Dialogue clarity is superb, highlighting the full complement of obscenity that will be obvious to those fluent in French. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 version is atmospheric and absorbing in its own right.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

The Criterion Collection really delivers in the extras department with La Haine. The booklet contains a thoughtful essay by Ginette Vincendeau, a film studies professor at King’s College (London). There are several documentaries on the making of this ground-breaking film:

  • Introduction by Jodie Foster
  • Ten Years of La Haine, a cast and crew reunion documentary
  • Featurette on the banlieus in France
  • Production footage
  • Deleted and extended scenes with commentary by Kassovitz
  • Photo gallery
  • Trailers

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

By way of full disclosure, La Haine is not an easy watch since its themes of social malaise are all too familiar, not only in France, but uncomfortably so right here in the US. The characters, strongly cast by Kassovitz (himself an accomplished actor), do remind me of the types often used by Scorsese in his New York based studies of underprivileged youths. Although the three leads come from very different ethnic backgrounds, these differences do not interfere with their friendship and their concern for each other. The basic message conveyed is that misery really does love company. The accidental tragedy near film’s finale might seem to be inevitable,but it is really offset by an overwhelming sense of the characters’ futility.  In many ways, La Haine was not only a major departure for the French film industry but broke new ground on subsequent films of social consciousness. All considered, a brilliant, occasionally brutal film noir, it must be experienced in this superb Criterion Collection reissue.  

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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