“Yes, the hero is born from this conflict and the quality of vulnerability is something cinematic – it belongs to the nature of cinema and only in cinema are heroes able to show their invulnerability to whatever they’re up against. It’s a very cinematic quality.”
Why This Director?: Loved the one film I saw, and was fascinated by the utterly vicious reception his Palme win earned when he was so well-liked prior to Dheepan.
My Last Experience Was…: Rust and Bone, which made my 2012 Top 10. Should be a soap opera and instead is vicious and flinty.
What Did I Watch: A Prophet, his most well-liked.
Where Does He Fit: I am fucking furious right now because WordPress lost everything I wrote when I attempted to add an image, and I use a word counter to help me with my writing, so bear with me for a shorter entry. Rahim’s character of Malik arrives in jail after assaulting an officer for getting caught committing a petty crime, and he is very much a child in a place of shadowy walls and obscured meanings. No idea what he is getting himself into whatsoever, and he looks like a child to boot.
He is ordered to kill the man in the above picture by the Corsican gang, led by Niels Arestrup’s loathsome old man, or else he himself will be taken out. Within half an hour, the plan succeeds, in one of the nerviest opening acts you could imagine. It is definitely not for the squeamish, but we receive a truly amazing shot out of it.
From there, A Prophet goes into quieter territory as the years pass by and the story’s racial conflicts take root. The Corsicans and the Arabs are at each other’s throats, with the Malik character putting up with the racial abuse and servitude he is forced into.
It all gets into allegorical territory when several Corsicans get transferred and he learns the language and begins working both sides of the feud. He also earns day long furloughs because France’s prison system is a lot less shitty than ours, and the criminal activity begins to get conducted on both sides of the fence, all the while he slowly works his way to the top of the food chain by spilling the most blood, slowly becoming the ideal product of the system rather than a well adjusted citizen.
Like with Rust and Bone, the beginning and end are better than the middle, which is not to say the second act is lacking, especially from the Egyptian gang becoming tangled in the mix after he well and truly hits his stride, with Audiard’s tendency to really embrace the moods rather than literal meanings of his titles coming into play. He is not a prophet in the literal sense outside of having a fortunate dream about a deer that saves his life, but one who has learned to know what to expect ahead of time, while Rust and Bone’s title that referred to the taste of being punched in the face. The ambiguities of that opening vanish very quickly as he settles, but the highs are potent.
Most Valuable Asset: His actors. Cotillard, Rahim, Schoenaerts, Arestrup…all great stuff.
Most Excited For: The Beat That My Heart Skipped, also well regarded and featuring an intriguingly similar tack to A Prophet.
Coming Up Next: Roy Andersson, comedy’s answer to Ingmar Bergman.