Friday, August 6, 2010

A Prophet

Jacques Audiard, France, 2009 (9.0*)
Palm D'Or, Cannes
This is an excellent prison drama, the best since Shawshank Redemption, and it won the Palm D'or at Cannes likely because it sticks with you long after you've seen it. The pace takes awhile to become engrossing but once it does it has the viewer in a hypnotic spell.

Blurbs compare it to The Godfather but it's not about a family clan, nor multi-generations - it's a coming of age story for a shrewd survivor, wonderfully performed by Tahir Rahim as an 18-yr old suddenly thrown into prison for striking a policeman in a brawl. The prison is primarily controlled through bribery by the head of the Corsicans, Cesar, brilliantly acted by Niels Arestrup - after just one scene you forget he's acting; he even looks like a criminal, with greasy white-blond hair and a menacing glare.

Rahim is an Arab outsider, a non-Muslim, unwanted by both sides so he's recruited by Cesar to betray another Arab, and thus begins his education within prison, which is also mirrored by his own desire to take language classes while there. He also learns a bit of Corsican by observation, and quite a few more things about people, as this film is about culturally divided classes and complex inteactions among Arabs, Muslims, French, Corsicans, southern Italians. Everyone mistrusts all other groups yet are forced to interact for self-preservation.

This is superb piece of filmmaking all around, and an engrossing story. There's a little violence, hardly any compared to American films, and a couple of R rated sex scenes which some have compained about, and is perhaps a bit long at 2:30, so it's more like a diamond in the rough. I'll have to see the film that beat this out for the foreign language Oscar®, it's hard to believe this lost.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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