(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: La Haine

Where You Can Stream It: Kanopy

The Pitch:  a trio of friends wander aimlessly through the French suburbs, distracting themselves from the cycles of poverty and discrimation that entrap them by debating their favorite movies and posturing as Robert de Niro-inspired gangsters.

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: There are so many restless, rebellious movies of the ‘90s that try to speak to the Gen X frustration with societal norms, but La Haine is the best of all of them. At times meandering and philosophical, at other times downright brutal, La Haine is rooted in the racial and class tensions of 1995 France. Anchored by magnetic performances by Vincent Cassel, Saïd Taghmaoui and Hubert Koundé and thoughtful direction by Mathieu Kassovitz, the central trio’s performative fantasies collide with reality as they come face-to-face with police brutality and gang violence.

“Ever heard about the guy who fell off a skyscraper? On his way down past each floor, he keeps saying to reassure himself: So far so good… so far so good… so far so good. How you fall doesn’t matter. It’s how you land.”

Presented in a stark white-and-black palette and following 24 hours in the day of three young men from the impoverished banlieues of Paris, La Haine is an unrelenting portrait of urban rage. But as much as the film seethes with anger and injustice, it also taps into the ennui that comes with the helplessness of poverty. The three friends — the angry Travis Bickle-wannabe, Vinz (Vincent Cassell, in his breakout role), the wise boxer and small-time drug dealer, Hubert (Hubert Koundé) and the gently timid Said (Saïd Taghmaoui) — wander aimlessly throughout the suburbs in the aftermath of a riot instigated by a shocking instance of police brutality.

La Haine is a simmering pot of tension and anger just waiting to come to a boil in the form of Cassell’s Vinz, who comes into possession of a gun and vows vengeance against the police. There’s no better depiction of the vicious cycle of social class and cruelty than La Haine, which feels as visceral today as it did 23 years ago.

Though it wears its inspiration from cinematic classics like Do the Right Thing and Taxi Driver on its sleeves, La Haine is so much more than the sum of its parts. Released in 1995, Mathieu Kavitz’s potent crime drama takes place amidst social unrest and race riots spreading across France at the time. So it’s chilling just how relevant La Haine remains today.

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