06 March 2010

A Prophet / Un prophète (Jacques Audiard, 2009, France)

What serendipity that I happen to watch a movie like this when only this morning I had been revisiting Pauline Kael's "Trash, Art, and the Movies.". (Note her use of the Oxford comma!) This is quite an exhilarating film. At times the sustained tension is almost maddening. The film certainly created a tone and held me transfixed for the duration of the running time and although the character is certainly not a hero in any moral sense I certainly found myself pulling for him and feeling elated at his triumphs. Jacques Audiard is a director whose name I had not previously been familiar with although I watched his 1996 film A Self Made Hero almost ten years ago and I remember quite liking that film. His 2005 film The Beat That My Heart Skipped has been chilling on my Netflix queue for quite some time now and I'm certainly anxious to get around to watching that now.

I loved the use of music here, both on the score and the song that plays in the final moments of the film which is too surprising and fitting and perfect and fantastic to name here since I shouldn't like to ruin that surprise for anyone who might happen to read this. Tahar Rahim makes what seems most certainly to be a breakthrough performance as Malik, a 19 year old man who is being incarcerated for six years for some kind of violent incident involving a cop. The film sort of chronicles these six years. He has no friends on the outside and seems to have grown up parentless in assorted institutions. Shortly after he arrives in prison the Corsican gangster who seems to run the place informs him that if he doesn't kill this guy who's about to go to trial and make trouble for the Corsicans, he's dead. It's a great performance and the plot is exquisite with its connections and surprises. I'm not sure what to say here about it but I really loved this movie. I don't know if The White Ribbon is the best of the nominees in the foreign film category this year but, having seen three of the nominees, I'd probably rank it second or third, with A Prophet being my favorite. I think I'd even put Ajami in second place because it showed me some things I didn't know about the world. A+

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