Monthly Archives: February 2010

  • A Prophet (Un Proph├ęte) – Jacques Audiard (FR 2009)

    A Prophet (Un Prophéte) – Jacques Audiard (FR 2009) Malik el Djebena; Niels Arestrup

    Viewed Tyneside Cinema 2nd Feb 2010 ticket price £7.00

    The vision of the amnesiac

    By the end of A Prophet (AP) I felt underwhelmed by its gangster story inanity and its duration. But I was struck by something else in the film, a theme that underlies the movie but that mostly remains in the background. The theme that dare not speak its name: the emergence of Islam from out of the shadows as a potent collective social and moral force to rival the West and Christianity.

    The length of movie (155mins) has nothing to do with any attempt in the film to find a language for the experience of the passing of time in prison and more to do with Jacques Auriard’s (JA) stretching out his rite de passage theme to cover issues outside his main concern. Like many contemporary directors JA only seems to feel secure with his material if he packs out his script with a series of extraneous references to personal problems, social issues etc. (in contrast compare Robert Bresson’s Un condamné a mort s’ est échappé) So AP is bulked out with the ‘apparition story’, the ‘cancer story’, and titled chapters dealing with a array of lesser and mostly forgettable characters.

    TP as film, in its settings and lighting, the camera work, the nature of its acting and dramatic rendering, is simply an inflated TV experience. The film’s creative style is premised on heightened replication of its realised setting – the prison. The prison is then exploited as a melodramatic background against which to project an acting style built on cliché and sentimental exploitation of the narrative. As in TV the use of the camera as the indexical tool is restricted to changes of angle, in particular shot reverse shot, and the consequent use of this limited vocabulary to pace the action. JA makes little alternative use of his camera other than to set up opportunities to manipulate the action in the edit. In particular this limitation of filmic vocabulary is exposed in the interactions between Tahar and the apparition of his victim in his cell. There is so little filmic understanding of the relationship that all JA can do is repeat the contrivance. The repetition quickly exhausts interest in the relationship (which seems to have nowhere to go) . The final shot of ‘the victim on fire’ seems little more than a heavy handed symbolic event contrived to mark the point of change in Tahar’s consciousness of his situation. A shot deployed to arouse flagging audience indifference. With his limited filmic sensibility AP seems to run out of ideas and energy in making the narrative of AP work. Dramatically the film is reduced, like many French gangster films, to endless repetition of dramatic motifs and emotive vamping.

    What works in AP, is JA’s continuous return to the core situation: the prison. It is here, in the non action, in the ebb and flow of people through the psychic currents in the exercise yard and the corridors that the potent forces in the film reveal themselves. The prison as an allegorical setting: a substitute for the social matrix. This allegorical use of the prison is only a half glimpsed and has to burrow its way through to the surface of what is otherwise a wash of mediocre cliché’s rendering of gangsta’s in gaol. JA’s film works as an allegorical vehicle commenting on the West and Islam. As an allegorical vehicle it succeeds despite the banal style in which it is shot.

    AP feels like it is a film that is really about a phantom narrative that develops alongside and in parrellel with the initiation story. And it not the Oedipal drama suggested by the relationship between Cesar and Tahar. If Tahar is not a naïf what is the story?

    I think that the narrative concerning the rise of Tahar as super criminal is a feint, a decoy that overlayers the interesting concerns of AP which are the effects of Islam on French society. In actual fact, given the way he is portrayed in AP, a man with no past ( he can’t even remember his parents) Tahar is in effect an amnesiac. A device in effect for exposing the familiar. Tahar remembers nothing. He awakes in prison as if from a dream. He has no religion. He has no social background. He is placed in an environment where there are two groups. The old tired corrupt and corrupted Europeans ( represented by the Corsicans) who have lost all moral bearing; and the followers of Islam who are upright, uncorrupted spiritually and justified in their faith. A group bound by a hierarchic ethos of destructive individuality; the other group defined by collective worship. The prison of AP is an allegorical setting in which the amnesiac Tahar is put in a position where he has to make a series of decisions and eventually take up an allegiance with one or the other group. The West is spent old and corrupted. It is the vital moral claim of Islam that wins him over: Moslem corruption may be social but it is not spiritual. The depleted and morally exhausted state of the West, of Christianity is laid bare in the allegorical setting of the gaol. Perhaps this is why Tahar is the prophet: he chooses the path of righteousness even in crime, and crime is not the same as corruption. This is the message of a Prophet.

    Of course like all allegories to be effective it is simple. In this case the allegory refers to only half of humanity. This is a male parable. Perhaps we need a female prophet.

    adrin neatrour

  • Daybreakers

    Hi ya folks. Back again with a wry look at a blockbuster film I caught out there on the ether.

    You know what I really like?

    You don’t.

    Well I’ll tell you. A nice 3 litre box of cheap red wine, a fat, raw black pudding and a good vampire flick. Actually I lied, I can’t stand wine and being a Jew black pudding is a no no. But hey I’ll lie, just like the makers of Daybreakers cos it ain’t a good vampire flick.

    The premise had such potential. The year is 2019 which for those of you who don’t care for calendars that’s the future. You know a time where phones don’t have cords and TV goes past midnight. Oh no shit that’s now, I’m still stuck in the 70s. Anyway I digress it’s the future and the planet is populated by vampires you know those pretty traditional ones, drink blood, suffer severe melanoma (Actually this is an Australian made film, maybe it’s a documentary about Aussies.), explode with stakes in the heart, some of them even went to Bela Lugosi’s school of vampire etiquette, especially Sam Neill. It seems the best thing about this future is that vampires live forever making it….. Now wait for it. Making it cool to smoke again and boy do they smoke, everyone smokes so much in this film I’m surprised it doesn’t come with a message from the surgeon general and a picture of someone with their throat turned inside out. Sadly it’s not the future yet, smoking comes before a long, painful death and you still have to do it in the pissing rain.

    Anyway vampires everywhere, driving cars, drinking posh Italian coffees with extra blood, catching the subway and taking their vampire kids to sports to watch overpaid vampires play them. The problem is there are so many vampires they are running out of food. Humans are being farmed for their blood but they are getting less and less. Obviously they never met me ma because she would have forced them to eat liver, because it is good for your blood.

    The plot is a blah, blah thriller, sci fi, horror do da that just can’t hold it together. Ethan Hawke is a Haematologist (some sort of a blood doctor for those of us who only got a YTS in lawn mowing.) who is a reluctant vampire that wants to save what’s left of the human race. The survivors’ leader, ex-vampire Daniel Defoe who it seems based his face on Guy Fawkes Is a boring ex-vamp

    There are 3 main issues I have with this film. Firstly everyone who is a vampire seems to have forgotten only a little while back they were potential food. They just don’t seem to acknowledge that the person who was human who has become a vampire is still them. OK maybe that is a little picky. The next one is a bit way out there as well. OK I am a simple person but all this stuff gets in the way of suspending my disbelief of things. What I felt about the whole thing is it tried to explain this in some quasi-scientific way. I can’t put my finger on it UV, Haematology (which sounds like some expensive rich peoples religion.) but it just seemed like they were trying to justify stuff with science. This just ain’t necessary, science is theory’s and formulas and crap while vampires are legends. You know what I mean? Understanding stuff about DNA doesn’t really give you any insight in to the mating habits of trolls.

    Anyway if you don’t like those 2 reasons for not liking it you’ll love the third. The third act is crap. The plot goes all over the place then decides to abandon the film. Everything just get stupid and confusing which I think the film makers knew because by this point they said what the hell is going on and decided just to kill lots of stuff. This turned it in to a vampire film done in the style of a zombie flick.

    My advice stay away from cheap wine, blood pudding and this flick.

    As always love and kisses