Friday, 15 January 2010

Un prophete, Jacques Audiard, France 2009

I'm afraid I can't quite join the hype that has surrounded Audiard's film as frankly, I am unable to comprehend why exactly Un prophete is generating this kind of universally enthusiastic response.

Yes, the performance by the male lead Tahar Rahim is indeed outstanding, I agree; and Audiard certainly deserves credit for giving Rahim the platform he deserves to express his talent.

And yes, Audiard's rough and gritty way - the mise-en-scene, the cinematography, the editing - of depicting life inside a prison is ... well, yes, interesting, at times even captivating.

And, so ... ???

Well, perhaps having read how Un prophete was showered with awards everywhere didn't help, as it raised my expectations sky-high. I wonder how I'd have felt about Audiard's film had I watched it 'cold', without having read or heard anything about it. Who's to know?

Don't get me wrong: I don't mean to knock Un prophete! Not completely, anyway. To me, Un prophete is quite simply an interesting film about life in prison - neither more, nor less! Therefore, I'm stunned by the response Audiard's film is generating - in Europe as well as across the Atlantic. I can't help thinking that there are numerous examples of prison films - some better than others, of course - and for some reason they always seem to fare well the critics, though few were lucky enough to have opened to similar universal acclaim.

On the bottom line, what makes Un prophete worthwhile is the fact that it raises some important and provocative questions, not just with respects to the prison system in general, but also regarding immigration and education. Perhaps some would argue that by simply raising these questions Audiard has more than earned the acclaim he received for his film. That's, of course, debatable. But I beg to differ on this one as in order for a film to get a profoundly enthusiastic response out of me I need to be gripped, moved, and the film needs to stay with me for some time. Then I now that I've seen a truly great film! And, I'm afraid, in my book Un prophete isn't one of them.