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Glace Vanille

Hanging Out in the City of Light: The restless youths of "Hate."

Life is sort of tough on the streets of Paris in the new film 'Hate'

By Richard von Busack

Within two weeks, we've had Primal Fear, Fear and Hate (La Haine); who could blame the sensitive for skipping the movies and going to the beach instead? Life isn't very pretty in the ghetto of the world's most beautiful city, especially if you're the three young heroes of Hate, who live in a decaying project on the outskirts of Paris.

Over the course of 24 hours, we follow African Hubert (Hubert Kounde), Jewish Vinz (Vincent Cassel) and Arab Said (Said Taghmaoui)--three disaffected minorities broken down into the clean, calculated demographics of the cartoon kids at Burger King.

The trio spends the day aimlessly--hanging out, riding downtown to collect a minor debt, talking about the guns most of them have only seen in the movies, missing the last train home and spending the least pleasant night roaming the streets of Paris in the history of cinema.

Director Mathieu (Cafe au Lait) Kassovitz tries to get some life in the movie through snappy camera work and Dragnet-style time references, but this just seems pure conceit.

I was, however, fond of a scene of an old man's shaggy-dog story about something that happened to him in Siberia--one of those anecdotes that seems simultaneously irrelevant and profound, meaning something like "We must all hang together, or we will all hang separately." It's a cheerful, humane moment; the trio listens respectfully, and the illusion of no hope for these young wastrels is revealed for what it is: an illusion.

The American distributors of Hate inject some credibilité de la rue (street cred) by having the titles translated into American gangsta slang; thus, Hate's general flavor of glace vanille (Vanilla Ice). The subtitles are full of talk about the homeboys in the 'hood, and we are spared neither French rap music nor, during a hash-smoking scene, the phrase "Your shit is dope!" (Shouldn't that be "Your dope is dope"?)

Is there a parallel to life in American slums? Yes. Is it a strong parallel? Definitely not. The kids in Hate have access to schooling, medical care and other social services we don't even dream about for our poor. The attempts to pump up the desperation--the notion that these three young goofs represent a world heading down the crapper--reminded me of critic Jonathan Rosenbaum's comment on Kids. When The New York Times called that film "a wake-up call to the world," Rosenbaum noted that, indeed, Malaysian rice farmers need to be awakened to the plight of rootless, aimlessly hedonistic kids in America. Or, in this case, Paris.

Hate (Unrated; 95 min.), directed and written by Mathieu Kassovitz and starring Vincent Cassel, Hubert Kounde and Said Taghmaoui.

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From the April 18-24, 1996 issue of Metro

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