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LETTERS FROM LARRY
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.
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Sundance 2010 Letters from Larry
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.