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ParisUpdate-Montmartre

Street in Montmartre. © Paris Update

 

Paris Update This Week’s Events

For full details about an event, click on the title to visit the official Web site (in English when available).

Christmas singalong
> So British! Concert: Join the choir and sing along. Practice session on Dec. 10 or click here for singing tutorials. Philharmonie de Paris, Dec. 16.

Gourmet food fair
> Just in time for Christmas, the Salon Saveurs. Espace Champerret, Paris, Dec. 2-5.

Organic food and wine fair
> Vinibio and Bio Gourmet: 120 winemakers and 80 food specialists. Carreau du Temple, Paris, Dec. 3-5.

Christmas markets
> Mulled wine and gifts galore. A full list of Christmas markets in Paris. Various locations and dates.

American Contemporary Chamber Music Festival

ParisUpdate-Mona-Bismarck
> Hear Now Paris. Mona Bismarck American Center, Paris, Dec. 2-4.

Art Fair
> The Experiences Art Fair shows art in empty buildings. 14 Place Jacques Bonsergent, Paris, through Dec. 6.

African music and film
> Africolor cultural festival. Various locations in Paris suburbs, through Dec. 24.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Katell Quillévéré’s Réparer les Vivants, followed by cocktails (tickets online only). Le Brady, Paris, Dec. 1.

Master of Indian cinema
Festival Satyajit Ray. Cinémathèque Française, Paris, through Dec. 14.

Cultures of the world onstage
> Music, dance, theater and ritual performances from around the world at the Festival de l'Imaginaire. Various locations, Paris, through Dec. 20.

Contemporary arts festival
> The Festival d’Automne presents leading talents in art, dance, film, theater and more from around the world. Various venues, Paris, through Dec. 31.

Music & more in park bandstands
> Kiosques en Fête brings life to the bandstands in Paris’s parks with concerts, writing workshops, club meetings and even a square dance. Various locations, Paris, through Dec. 31.

 

Film - Drama

 

Un Prophète

Un Prophète, Jacques Audiard

Newcomer Tahir Rahim is utterly believable as a prisoner named Malik.

For some reason, I can happily sit through six hours of a Wagner opera, but in the cinema, anything over 90 minutes tends to become unbearable. It takes something special to make me want to go to a film that lasts over two-and-a-half hours.

Jacques Audiard’s Un Prophète, however, comes with almost universal plaudits. It was strongly tipped to win the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes film festival, and, although in the end it was pipped to the post by Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, it still won the Grand Prix (in effect, the runner’s-up award).

The movie concerns the six years spent in prison by a young Arab man named Malik (played by newcomer Tahar Rahim). This illiterate character starts out as a blank canvas, seeming to have no past or connections, no beliefs or opinions. But he very soon comes into contact with and remains answerable to a terrifying Corsican crime lord called César (played by Niels Arestrup, who was also in Audiard’s previous film, the highly regarded The Beat That My Heart Skipped) and is forced to murder another prisoner who is about to be released and represents a danger to César’s outside criminal interests. As the film progresses, Malik (clearly haunted by the murder he has committed) begins to educate himself and gradually rediscovers his origins and identity.

Audiard’s direction shows such confidence and poise that very quickly one becomes gripped by his muscular depiction of prison life (the advisors and extras on the film were themselves former prisoners). Indeed, when Malik is allowed to leave prison for a day, it is difficult not to exult in his sense of liberation.

My major quibble with the film is the way, as the film’s title suggests, the central character becomes a figure of almost religious significance. We are made to empathize with him even though he is actively involved in the most violent attacks and murders (the film’s gore score is very high).

The movie is worth seeing for Tahar Rahim’s performance alone. He is rarely off the screen and at all times is utterly believable, an extraordinary achievement for a newcomer. Surely we will see a lot more of him in future films.

Nick Hammond

More film reviews.

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