Friday, March 12, 2010

A PROPHET: The Jack Sack Movie Review

Note: This is a review of a current release, not a "Movie Classic" like my last film article. I'm trying to keep boundaries here! The Jack Sack Movie Classics will return soon.

Here's a name you'll hopefully start hearing more of in the next few years: Jacques Audiard. Audiard is the director of A PROPHET, a present-day crime epic set in a French prison. Malik, the film's main character, is a clueless, defenseless and friendless 19-year-old starting a 6-year sentence. Ah, a prison movie, that means there's some path to redemption here, like in THE GREEN MILE or THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, right? Um, not so much. This is the story of a young man who learns to become a true criminal through his time as an inmate. There's something very twisted about that notion- and it appears Audiard appreciates the irony as well.

If you're familiar with television series THE WIRE, then you'll understand how this movie treats its characters. There are no Hollywood contrivances or "outs" here, this is a movie meant to immerse you in uncertainty and danger. On its surface, prison is a chaotic environment, but if you dig deeper you discover a very ordered society. Malik is our guide through this world- each new thing he learns is a revelation to us as well. The story shows how Malik adapts to each new realization about his surroundings. We also see that he is a fast learner and a shrewd problem-solver. Despite the confines of prison, he has a full, rich life unfolding throughout the film.

Audiard, who has made some notable French movies (among them READ MY LIPS and THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED), will definitely be making films in Hollywood in the near future is he so desires. His eye for details is the most impressive quality to his films. Have you ever sat in a room, listening to someone talking and had your eyes wander about, lingering on random things like a coffee mug or a box of cereal? That's what Audiard's camera pulls off without you even thinking about it. He places you in the movie- without the aid of James Cameron's beloved 3-D tech (the cinematic version of Viagra if there ever was one). In film school-speak, Audiard is a master of cinema-vérité.

For someone that loves movies, I admit to having a blind spot towards French films up until recently. Yes, it's tiresome and distracting to read subtitles for two hours. And there's also that cultural divide that pops up from time to time. But I'm glad I broke down and started chasing down these films. I am completely impressed by the style, grit and economical storytelling of French filmmakers. They're carrying on the great tradition of 1970s cinema, when America was making films like THE FRENCH CONNECTION, SERPICO, and MEAN STREETS. I'm not sure why we don't make those kinds of movies anymore- but whatever the reason, it's kind of frustrating. American life is no less real than what's taking place in Marseilles or Mexico City. There are worthwhile stories here that are not being told through our movies. Maybe we need someone like Audiard to make a large impact here, to kick us in the ass and start thinking about these things.

In the meantime, A PROPHET is a completely engrossing journey, a saga about a simple boy who reveals himself to be a complicated man. It's playing in theaters now, and will probably be available on video within months.

14 comments:

Sunny said...

I love your movie reviews. I'll make sure to see this one. Thanks!

Rickey Henderson said...

A mix of The Wire and The French Connection, eh? This one's definitely going into the Netflix queue. Thanks for alerting Rickey!

Rickey Henderson said...

PS: Your blog's new text is making Rickey cross eyed! Fix that shit homey!

Adam said...

@Sunny, Thank you doll!

@Rickey- I don't know what you're talking about. There's no funky font. You must be off your meds!

But seriously, are you on Internet Explorer? I was worried this new blog style would not work on some browsers.

Rickey Henderson said...

Rickey was using Firefox and the text was blurry and out of focus.

There's no problem when Rickey views the page in IE7--the text is blue and crisp.

FIX IT.

HC said...

Bah, I'm reading it on firefox and it's fine -- put down the crackpipe, rickey.

Adam said...

Lemme see what I can do with the CSS style on this f@#king template I stupidly adopted...

Adam said...

Alright, I futzed with it, lemme know if its better (hard to fix a problem I can't see...)

Rickey Henderson said...

Vastly better!

Adam said...

Good- I completely redesigned the ENTIRE friggin' blog.

I wasn't happy with that last design to be honest. The whole genesis of redesigning the blog in general came when I was screwing around with the site's HTML and did significant damage to the code. Panicking, I threw in a template I was thinking of using anyway, and the rest was a disaster of squinting and scratching my head for a couple of days. This new design is something I decided upon late last night and I'm much much happier with this cleaner look. I'm glad you enjoy it as well.

Sunny said...

@ Adam, I like the new & improved design.

Adam said...

Thanks Sunny- you are a classy lady with impeccably good taste!

Anonymous said...

I'm french and I'm surprise to see your review of a french movie. Frankly I thought american people didn't see much french movies. So thanks!

Adam said...

@Anonymous- Thank you for your comment. If you have other French films that you think are worth seeing, please share those titles with me and my readers. I am always looking to expand my scope of movies.

Post a Comment