Photo of the Week

Paris-Update-view-from-louvre

Left to right: Eiffel Tower, Louvre Pyramid, Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and Ferris Wheel. © 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).

Drawing through the ages

Paris-Update-Matisse-les-pommes
"Apples" (1944), by Henri Matisse. Eric Coatalem Gallery.

> Salon du Dessin: 39 galleries showing works on paper, from Old Masters to contemporary. Palais Brogniart, Paris, March 22-27.

Contemporary drawing fair
> Drawing Now: 73 galleries, Carreau du Temple, Paris, March 23-26.

More contemporary drawings
>Ddessin: 20 galleries. Atelier Richelieu, Paris, March 24-26.

Art and design fair
> PAD (Paris Art + Design),
67 galleries, Tuileries Garden, Paris, March 22-26.

African culture festival
> The 100% Afriques festival showcases dance, theater, music, fashion, design, art, food and more from all over the continent. La Villette, Paris, March 23-May 28.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Audrey Dana's Si j'Étais un Homme, preceded by a themed cocktail party (€4.50). Studio 28, Paris, Feb. 24.

Documentary film festival
> Cinéma du Réel showcases documentaries from around the world. Various venues, Paris, March 24-April 2.

Suburban blues
> The Banlieues Bleues festival brings major French and international jazz acts to the Paris suburbs. Various venues, through March 31.

Before and after ecological disaster
> The Chic Planète festival presents two types of films, those celebrating the bounty of the earth and science-fiction views of what will happen after an ecopalypse. Forum des Images, Paris, through April 13.

Save

Save

Save  

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.

Reader Reaction
Click here to respond to this article (your response may be published on this page and is subject to editing).

© 2009 Paris Update