La Haine | 1995
Mathieu Kassovitz's film looks at a side of Paris rarely seen on screen, the banlieues (or estates) that surround the city. Like tower blocks, they were originally a well-intentioned solution to inner-city slum houses but have gone on to suffer their own problems.
Wary of being stigmatised, the authorities allowed to Kassovitz film on the Cité de la Noé estate at Chanteloup-les-Vignes, about 15 miles northwest of Paris, on condition that the locale was not specified.
There’s been some urban renewal and renovation since the film was shot and some of the buildings seen no longer exist. You can, though, still see the huge murals from the final scene on Rue des Pierreuses, which depict poets Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire.
Vinz (Vincent Cassel) a Jew, Hubert (Hubert Koundé) a black boxer and Arab Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui) are coming to terms with a night of rioting following the savage beating of their friend Abdel by the police.
The mix of diverse cultures and insensitive policing has raised tensions to boiling point and during the mayhem a gun belonging to the police has been lost.
Saïd needs to travel into central Paris to collect money from a friend he knows only as Asterix. His two mates accompany him but the stakes are ominously raised when the angry Vinz reveals that he’s come into possession of the missing gun and vows to kill a cop if Abdel dies.
The rail journey from Chanteloup-les-Vignes to Paris Gare Saint-Lazare, 13 Rue d'Amsterdam, takes about an hour.
Arriving in the capital, the three are first seen on the roof of Galeries Lafayette, Boulevard Montparnasse, overlooking the rue de Rennes, a long way south from St-Lazare.
They’re soon back to the north, causing chaos for the neighbours by ringing all the buzzers at the apartment block of Asterix, at 29 boulevard Pierre 1er de Serbie, on the corner of rue Georges Bizet.
Admitting he’s only borrowed the grand apartment, Asterix turns out to be seriously flaky and he, too, has a gun.
When the trio make a hasty exit from the flat, Saïd and Hubert are immediately picked up by the police while the gun-toting Vinz has to make a desperate run for it.
In fact, everyone seems to be armed. While his friends languish in the police station, Vinz hangs with a couple of mates until one of them overreacts to being barred from a nightclub by recklessly firing his gun through the door. The club was Le Tango, an old dance hall which is now gay club La Boite a Frissons, 11 rue au Maire.
Saïd and Hubert are meanwhile getting a rough time at the hands of the police and, when they’re finally released, they miss the last train home from Gare St-Lazare.
On the station they meet up again with Vinz and, looking for ways to pass the night, end up crashing a pretentious art exhibition at Galerie Brownstone, 26 rue Saint Gilles. After scoffing their share of food and free drinks their attitude inevitably gets them thrown out.
It’s from news on the TV screens in the benighted Forum des Halles that the three learn that Abdel has finally died from his injuries.
Vinz comes close to keeping his word, almost pulling the gun on a couple of harmless traffic cops at the top of the Forum des Halles metro escalator. Saïd and Hubert have finally had enough of his attitude and leave Vinz alongside the giant 70-ton sandstone head resting on a cupped hand at Place René Cassin, the former square of Saint Eustache Church next to Les Halles.
Carved by sculptor Henri Miller in 1986, Écoute (Listen) sits directly on the ground with no pedestal, readily accessible for children (or adults) to climb into the hand and sit next to the ear.
When Vinz is finally confronted with a helpless racist young skinhead (a cameo by director Kassovitz himself), he realises he can’t bring himself to use the gun that’s been nagging at him for the whole movie.
The relief is only temporary. Morning finds the three taking the first train back to Chanteloup-les-Vignes, where the film shockingly ends in front of those impassive portraits of Rimbaud and Baudelaire.