Photo of the Week

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The view from the Théâtre de l"Odéon at dusk. Photo: Françoise Deberdt-Meunier

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Paris Update What’s On

Links to events happening this week in Paris.

Left Bank gallery crawl
> Open house at 50 galleries for Art Saint Germain des Prés. Various venues, Paris, May 18-June 3.

Gold in galleries

ParisUpdate-CarreRiveGauche-Passage AH 0

“Passage” ((2017), by Aude Herlédan. At 1831 Art Gallery during Carré Rive Gauche.

> The Carré Rive Gauche, an association of Left Bank galleries, celebrates its 40th anniversary with an event called ExtrORdinaire, featuring gold in works of art. Various venues, Paris, May 18-June 3.

Literary evening
> The Nuit de la Littérature in Belleville and Ménilmontant presents 20 foreign authors reading their work in French. Various venues, Paris, May 27.

 English-language theater festival
> Paris Fringe returns for its second year of English-language theater and comedy. Various venues, Paris, May 18-28.

Hollywood glam
> Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich and more in classic films from Hollywood's Golden Age for the Glamour cycle. Forum des Images, Paris, May 3-31.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Etienne Comar’s Django, preceded by a themed cocktail party (€4.50). Studio 28, Paris, May 26.

Virtual reality
> Drop in on Saturday or Sunday from 2pm to 8pm for a free virtual trip at the VR Express festival. Forum des Images, Paris, through June 30.

Dance in historic sites
> Monuments en Mouvement offers free dance performances in national monuments like the Pantheon in Paris, the Abbaye de Cluny and châteaux. Various locations, through Oct. 21.

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, through May 28.

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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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