By Other Voices voices@moviecitynews.com

LETTERS FROM LARRY

DEAR DAVID:

If there’s a better film that plays at Sundance 2010, than Jacques Audiar’s thrillingly compelling A Prophet (Un Prophete) I will be surprised.

Audiard synthesizes a classic young-gangster-on-the-rise tale akin to Scarface or Public Enemy with a convincing depiction of what it is like to make it in French society as an illiterate teenager of North African Arabic descent.

Audiard’s provocative choice was to set this brutal story of crime entirely in a bleak and terrifying prison.

In The Battle of Algiers and Malcolm X we were shown how, in prison a criminal might be politicized. Here, Audiard’s protagonist Malik knows nothing of his Islamic roots, at the start, and could care less. Sheer survival is the art he cultivate. But he has anuncanny combination of intelligence and luck. He realizes that ultimately that there is no survival without power. Audiard’s film is political even if his hero is not.

Two superlative performances drive A Prophet. Tahar Rahum as Malik is like a young De Niro or Pacino. You feel as if you see his nerves are exposed as he faces down each new threat, and his gradually increasing strength and confidence become uniquely believable.

Niels Asterup is the old time mob boss who teaches and terrorizes Malik and he brings a constantly surprising freshness to his scenes.

A Prophet puts new wine in old barrels in a way Hollywood genre film makers dream of doing but rarely know how to do. It deserves to be sensationally popular with American audiences.

Larry
Sent from my iPhone

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Sundance 2010 Letters from Larry
Jan 21

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Larry Gross is a 25 year screenwriting veteran and Winner of Sundance’s Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for his most recent release, We Don’t Live Here Anymore.

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A Spirited Exchange

“In some ways Christopher Nolan has become our Stanley Kubrick,” reads the first sentence of David Bordwell’s latest blog post–none of which I want or intend to read after that desperate opening sentence. If he’d written “my” or “some people’s” instead of “our”, I might have read further. Instead, I can only surmise that in some ways David Bordwell may have become our Lars von Trier.”
~ Jonathan Rosenbaum On Facebook

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~ David Bordwell Replies

“Yes, I do apologize, sincerely, for such a ridiculous and quite unwarranted comparison. The private nature of my grievance with David probably fueled my post, but it didn’t dictate it, even though I’m willing to concede that I overreacted. Part of what spurred me to post something in the first place is actually related to a positive development in David’s work–an improvement in his prose style ever since he wrote (and wrote very well) about such elegant prose stylists as James Agee and Manny Farber. But this also brought a journalistic edge to his prose, including a dramatic flair for journalistic ‘hooks’ and attention-grabbers, that is part of what I was responding to. Although I realize now that David justifies his opening sentence with what follows, and far less egregiously than I implied he might have, I was responding to the drum roll of that opening sentence as a provocation, which it certainly was and is.”
~ Jonathan Rosenbaum Replies

“In my own mind, I’ve always been a writer and the fact that I act is, well… it’s been very enjoyable and I love doing it. It has been good for me, but in my own mind I’m just a writer with a bizarre activity—acting—that I undertake.”
~ Wallace Shawn