Monday, August 23, 2010

Chris 2010 Viewings #41: A Prophet

I watched this moving picture, A Prophet, something like two months ago. Before I wrote my last review, that of The White Ribbon. I then gave the DVD to Mike, who watched it but will never review it (because spoiler: he will never write a review here ever again), then to Maggie, who reviewed it much better than I will (because that is what she does). I think Wendy has the DVD now, but she is in Europe for a few months, so don't expect a review from her, either.

A Prophet is a film by Jacques Audiard, whose entire filmography is what the hip kids say is "made of win". A Prophet is also a French prison movie, and I have never seen a bad French prison movie. Two of my favourite films ever, Le Trou and A Man Escaped, fall into this genre. So watching A Prophet was, as the hip kids said 20 years ago, a "no-brainer".

I stopped attending the Toronto International Film Festival 8 years ago. I stopped for a lot of reasons, but one of them was that if I watch too many movies in close succession they become one big blur and I don't remember too much about them. I watched A Prophet in the middle of a close succession of movies two months ago and my memory of it suffers accordingly. So bear with me.

It is about a young Arabic man in France. He goes to jail, and winds up straddling two factions: the other Arabic inmates, and a middle-aged crime boss who decides to make him a protege of sorts due to his "in" with the other Arabs. I don't want to spoil anything, but the crime boss gets egg on his face eventually.

This movie won an armload of Cesars (the French Oscars) and probably deserved them, though I will withhold judgment until I see every French film of 2009. It was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar, and like most great Best Foreign Film Oscar nominees, it did not win. Audiard is a filmmaker with a great eye for telling details and powerful imagery, like a man who is casually on fire (see above). The two leads (Tahar Rahim and Niels Arestrup) are fantastic, and make the power shifts that take place believable and affecting. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but usually when movies depict that, they just have a guy who was previously the weak one slick back his hair and put on bigger clothes and expect that to do all the work. Rahim and Arestrup reflect their stations in every ounce of their physical beings. Good work, guys.

That's all I have to say about A Prophet, which I will watch again because it deserves it.

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