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

_________________________________

Sundance 2010 Letters from Larry
Jan 21

_________________________________

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.

Comments are closed.

Quote Unquotesee all »

“The worst thing that we have in today’s movie culture is Rotten Tomatoes. It’s the destruction of our business. I have such respect and admiration for film criticism. When I was growing up film criticism was a real art. And there was intellect that went into that. And you would read Pauline’s Kael’s reviews, or some others, and that doesn’t exist anymore. Now it’s about a number. A compounded number of how many positives vs. negatives. Now it’s about, ‘What’s your Rotten Tomatoes score?’ And that’s sad, because the Rotten Tomatoes score was so low on Batman v Superman I think it put a cloud over a movie that was incredibly successful. People don’t realize what goes into making a movie like that. It’s mind-blowing. It’s just insane, it’s hurting the business, it’s getting people to not see a movie. In Middle America it’s, ‘Oh, it’s a low Rotten Tomatoes score so I’m not going to go see it because it must suck.’ But that number is an aggregate and one that nobody can figure out exactly what it means, and it’s not always correct. I’ve seen some great movies with really abysmal Rotten Tomatoes scores. What’s sad is film criticism has disappeared. It’s really sad.”
~ Brett Ratner Has A Sad

“The loss of a local newspaper critic is a real loss. People who know the local audience and know the local cultural scene are very important resources. You can’t just substitute the stuff that comes in from nowhere through syndication or the wire. I think at the same time, some of the newer outlets have really beefed up and improved their coverage and made room for criticism. The real problem is in the more specialized art forms — fine arts, classical music, dance and jazz, say. There is a real slowing of critical voices, partly because those art forms have smaller audiences. Newspapers and magazines can say that doesn’t get enough traffic, so we don’t have room for that. To me, that’s especially worrisome. This is the opposite of what newspapers are supposed to do, which is not to try to figure out what people are already interested in and recite that back to them, but to hopefully guide them to something that they should be interested in, connecting potential audiences with more interesting work.

“Then again, not everyone needs a critic. People have been going to movies for more than 100 years now, and probably the vast majority of those people have not read movie reviews or cared what critics thought. But there has always been an important subset that wants to know more, that wants to think about what they’ve seen and what they’re going to see, and wants someone to think along with. I think critics are important, not just as dispensers of consumer advice — though that’s certainly part of it, too — but as trusted voices and companions for people to argue with in your head when you’re going to movies or afterwards.”
~ A. O. Scott