When The Wackness came out last summer, I can’t say that I actively avoided it, but I was certainly put off by the trailer, which promised fresh to deathness, Golden Age nostalgia, fly ladies, and Method Man. The idea of a movie about a “Hip-Hop lifestyle” seemed wholly gimmicky and unappealing to me, in spite of the semi-autobiographical nature of author and director Jonathan Levine’s story. Now, I’ve never actually seen the movie so my conception of it as a film about Hip-Hop may be wildly off base. Recently, however, in my own attempts to work on a filmic story about Hip-Hop, I have returned to my all-time favorite film, Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine.
(Trailer made by Nicolas Heller)
Put simply, La Haine embodies Hip-Hop. It does not attempt to be about it or comment on it. Instead it takes the themes, attitudes, and styles prevalent at the time of its release (1995) and weaves them through a narrative concerned with racial and social tensions after a riot in the Parisian ghetto. Though La Haine is indeed a French production, its acute awareness of American Hip-Hop sensibility and attempts to synthesize American and French Hip-Hop consciousness are not only admirable but far ahead of their time.
I haven’t even begun to explore the myriad reasons this film is my favorite (the powerful performances by a cast of unknowns, the stunning cinematography, the soundtrack, the story—it’s all good). My love for it isn’t really the point. If you want to know how to make a truly “Hip-Hop” film, look no further than La Haine.
Check out stills and further thoughts on La Haine here.