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Modern & Contemporary France (2001), 9(2), 197208

Screening the other Paris: cinematic representations of the French urban periphery in La Haine and Ma 6-T Va Crack-er
WILLIAM HIGBEE University of Exeter

Abstract The emergence of the cinma des banlieues in France during the mid-1990s reflected a more general socio-political identification with the run-down cits of the disadvantaged urban periphery as emblematic sites of fracture sociale. This article aims to consider the spatial representation of the Parisian banlieue found in two such films, La Haine (Kassovitz, 1995), and Ma 6-T Va Crack-er (Richet, 1997). It will question the extent to which the aesthetic and ideological differences between the two films can be explained by the relationship of the respective filmmakers to the banlieue, or whether, given the media (mis)representation of the banlieue in the 1990s, the disadvantaged urban periphery remained destined to be represented on screen as the space of the marginalised other.

According to statistics offered by INSEE, in 1990 approximately 45 per cent of Frances urban population lived in the banlieue. 1 Yet far from representing a suburban norm, the term has, over the last two decades, become associated almost exclusively with the deprived housing developments situated on the peripheries of larger French cities.2 These cits are occupied largely by the victims of social exclusion and a disproportionately high immigrant population. A powerful spatial stigma has thus emerged in the 1990s which, fuelled by a distorted media representation, qualifies the disadvantaged cit as the exclusive territory of the marginalised other.3 During the 1980s only a limited number of films by French directors were to address the issue of the disadvantaged urban periphery, most notably: Laisse Bton (Le Pron, 1983); Le Th au harem dArchimde (Charef, 1985); and De Bruit et de fureur (Brisseau, 1987). However, in the mid-1990sreflecting the evolving public perception of the banlieueFrench cinema increasingly turned to the deprived areas of the urban periphery as the emblematic site of social and ethnic exclusion. The socalled cinma des banlieues was characterised by a spatial representation of the cit as the near exclusive territory of the marginal, and further restricted by an overISSN 0963-9489 print/ISSN 1469-9869 online/01/020197-12 q DOI: 10.1080/0963948012004085 1 2001 ASM&CF



investment in Paris (most of the films of the 1980s and 1990s which focus on the disadvantaged urban periphery are based in the cits surrounding the capital). This article aims to consider the portrayal of the Parisian urban periphery in two films which form part of the corpus of banlieue cinema that has emerged within the last five yearsMathieu Kassovitzs La Haine (1995) and Jean-Franois Richets Ma 6-T Va Crack-er (1997)examining the extent to which the representations offered by the respective filmmakers are limited by the spatial stigma which has surrounded the notion of the banlieue in France during the 1990s. Finally, given the contrasting backgrounds of the two directorsRichet, a self-taught, highly politicised filmmaker from the disadvantaged cits to the north of Paris, and Kassovitz, the son of a successful TV producerthe position held by the individual filmmaker in relation to the disadvantaged cit (in social, ideological and aesthetic terms) will also be addressed. First, though, a brief account of the postwar evolution of the French urban periphery is necessary in order to understand why the banlieue is perceived in such specific terms as the space of the marginal in contemporary French society. The evolution of the postwar cit The origins of the present da y cit are to be found in the grands ensembles. Constructed during the 1950s and 1960s in response to the postwar housing crisis in France, the location of these gigantic concrete estates on the outskirts of larger French cities was justified by the cheaper price of land and their proximity to the workplace. Many of the grands ensembles were constructed specifically to accommodate and supply the workforce for factories and industrial plants of the urban periphery. 4 Taking their inspiration from the modernist vision of architects and urban planners from the 1920s and 1930s of a purely functional living space, the grands ensembles were welcomed by many for providing clean, modern accommodation for lower-middle-class and working-class French families. However, such optimism was short-lived. The structural limitations and alienating effect produced by the architecture of these massive estates soon became apparent. Attempts to reduce the scale of subsequent housing developments in the 1970s were negated by the fact that construction was forced to take place even further away from the urban centre. The cits of Paris now extended well beyond the barrier formed by the priphrique: a further reminder of their exclusion from the capital. The onset in the mid-1970s of deindustrialisation in the urban periphery accentuated this sense of alienation and exclusion. Those with the means to do so moved away, replaced by the recently arrived families of postwar immigrant workersmost notably those from North Africa. Further changes in the labour market throughout the 1980s have led to acute unemploym ent in the more deprived areas of the ban lieue, together with associated problems of crime, violence, drug abuse and delinquency. The feeling of frustration and exclusion shared by many of the younger residents has been articulated through sporadic outbreaks of social disturbancesmost seriously the rioting in the cits surrounding Paris and Lyon during the early 1980s and 1990s. Socio-economic deprivation, a disproportion ately high immigrant population and



the continual failure of government policy to address the root causes of social and ethnic exclusion within these areas, have thus qualified the disadvantaged cits of the 1990s as the marginalised territory of the otheror, more specifically, the site of disenfranchised male youth of non-Eu ropean immigrant origin. The postmodern geographer-theorist Edward Soja speaks of the way in which hegemony actively produces and reproduces difference as a key strategy to maintain modes of social and spatial division that are advantageous to its continued empowerment and authority.5 In this respect, the disadvantaged cit also exists as an ideological construct: a site of containment of the m arginal or threatening other. Geographical realities are distorted, or overlooked, in order to manufacture a perceived division between the banlieue and the rest of society. This city/cit binary allows hegemony to distance itself from those victims of social exclusion. Moreover, the failure on the part of French media (and certain French filmmakers) to challenge such representations of the deprived cits within the urban periphery merely serves to reinforce the attitude that, as the site of marginalisation, alterity and deviance, such areas are a lost causeallowing for the failure of government initiatives to tackle exclusion and acute social deprivation in such problem areas to be excused. The other Paris as site of marginalised (male) youth Ma 6-T Va Crack-er and La Haine, as with the majority of banlieue films, are based on the outskirts of Paris and offer a representation of the urban periphery as the site of socio-economic deprivation, characterised by degraded housing, high unemployment and delinquency. As such, both films appear to perpetuate many of the negative stereotypes associated with the banlieue. The cit is qualified as a gendered space, focusing almost exclusively on the experiences of male youth within the disadvantaged urban periphery. Public spacesentrances to the flats, stairwells and exterior communal spacesare identified as the domain of male youth, dominating the mise en scne of both Ma 6-T Va Crack-er, and those sequences from La Haine which take place within the cit. In common with many other banlieue films the female voice is, therefore, virtually absent from the diegesis. In La Haine (with the exception of the female journalist and newscaster) women occupy peripheral roles as mothers and sisters, revealed to the spectator through a limited number of scenes based primarily in the family apartments of Vinz and Hubert. Significantly, we never enter into the domestic sphere of the third member of the gang, Sad (French of North African origin). In a sense, Sad embodies the media stereotype par excellence of the young, disenfranchised ethnic other who inhabits the banlieue. Consequently, he is associated with the public spaces of the disadvantaged estate, coded as masculine sites of alterity and delinquency. Although media attention often focuses on the disproportionate ethnic minorities within the citsparticularly those of North African originas the signifier of a more readily visible other, the banlieue is very much a multiethnic space. 6 Both films reflect this reality. Richet makes no attempt to privilege any particular ethnic group: the cit as multiethnic space is accepted as a given fact, rendering any discourse surrounding ethnicity in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er non-existent. In La Haine,



the notion of the cit as multiethnic space is, perhaps, oversimplified, with the diverse ethnic groups of the banlieue reduced to the representative trio of Hubert, Vinz and Sad (black, blanc, beur). In the case of Sad such a representation belies both the complexity of his own hybrid identity (as Maghrebi-French youth) and the plurality of the North African population living in the urban periphery: made up as it is of an Arab and Berber populations from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia. Nevertheless, as Carrie Tarr has argued, the central issue in La Haine is social exclusion, not ethnicity,7 and this is also true of Ma 6-T Va Crack-er. The reality of the protagonists exc lusion is thus em bodied primarily through the spatial stigm a of the disadvantaged urban periphery rather than ethnic or cultural difference. In Ma 6-T Va Crack-er, the banlieue is further qualified as a masculine space through the use of violence (which permeates every level of life in the cit) and the extremely limited subjectivity offered to female protagonists: even the peripheral mother/sibling figures which feature in La Haine are absent. The inclusion of female characters invested with authority derived from the state such as the head teacher, or the plain clothes police woman (who takes an active role during the aggressive identity check and search of the young males from the cit) is, therefore, highly significant. That local male residents display resistance towards these two figures in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er, reflects not only their opposition to the perceived oppression visited upon them by external state institutions, but also a hostility towards female characters attempting to take control of what is perceived as an essentially male space. This hostility is seen to a lesser extent in La Haine, when Vinz, Hubert and Sad throw stones at the car carrying the young female reporter who attempts to interview them about the previous nights rioting. Ma 6-T Va Crack-er also places a clear emphasis on the banlieue as the site of marginalised youth. The film focuses on the delinquent activities of young teenagers from the cit as well as the slightly older, unemployed, male population. Although in their early twenties, the latter group still qualify as youth, since (in the eyes of wider society outside of the cit) they have neither the economic status nor social responsibilities (a job and a family to support) associated with adulthood. There is a complete absence of parental figures in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er, even during the few scenes within the domestic sphere. Sim ilarly, the advice of the grands frres (traditionally respected figures of authority in the cit) to avoid violent confrontation with a gang from the neighbouring estate is ignored, while appeals for calm from the animateurs in the face of the riots are treated with a degree of contempt by the films youthful protagonists. Richet thus portrays the space of the Parisian banlieue even more forcefully than Kassovitz from the perspective of disenfranchised male youth. The cit/city binary Although both films qualify the space of the banlieue as that of alienated male youth, they offer a striking contrast in their spatial representation of the banlieues relation to the city (Paris). La Haine firmly establishes the cit/city or margin/centre binary: narrative time divides almost exactly between the disadvantaged housing estates of the banlieue and the centre of Paris; events in the cit take place during the day,



whilst the majority of the action inside the capital is at night. This deliberate distinction between the centre and the urban periphery in La Haine is consistently reflected in technical and aesthetic choices made by the director, allowing for a highly stylised representation of this other Paris to emerge. The cit is captured in wide camera movements and relies on an extensive use of travelling shots, with the soundtrack recorded in stereo. In contrast, the shooting in Paris was completed in mono, with a much smaller technical crew.8 Similarly, Kassovitz aimed as much as possible to employ deep focus when shooting the characters within the cit so that they might be more closely integrated with their surround ings, whilst increasing focal length in Paris to detach the protagonists from their environment.9 This technique is well illustrated by the scene which establishes the trios arrival in the centre of Paris. The camera contemplates Vinz, Hubert and Sad as they stand motionless against the backdrop of a busy Parisian boulevard: background and protagonists in sharp focus. Instantly a travelling shot with zoom 10 is employed, retaining the sharp focus on the trio, whilst reducing the streets behind them to a blur. The effect is to isolate the youths from their immediate environment, thus accentuating the sense of alienation they feel in the central hegemonic space of the city. The technical effects employed by Kassovitz to locate Vinz, Hubert and Sad as outsiders in Paris are combined with their portrayal as redundant figures within the central, hegemonic space of the city. Upon arrival in the centre of Paris, the trio are denied access to Asterrixs flat, eventually gaining entry much more through luck than design. They subsequently fail in their attempt to collect the money owed to Sad, the real purpose of their visit. Having missed the final train home to the cit, they succeed in hot-wiring a car, only to realise that none of them know how to drive. This depiction of the banlieusard as incompetent and ineffective reflects the lack of opportunity afforded to young people in the disadvantaged cit to develop the social and professional skills that society demands. 11 Their incapacity to act decisively within Paris points towards an increased passivity, which, in turn, suggests a negative feminisation of the trio within the central hegemonic space of the city. During their demeaning interrogation in an anonymous commissariat of central Paris, Hubert and Sad are subjected to physical and verbal abuse from the police officers, who apply an explicit sexual connotation to their domination of the two youths, placing them in the role of the oppressed (feminised) other. Moreover, this sado-masochistic positioning is compounded by an implied objectification of Hubert and Sad as prostitutesan effect which produces a double feminisation of the subjects, given that there is no capital exchange: the police pay nothing for their abusive, sexualised threats and taunts.12 In contrast, an initial reading of Ma 6-T Va Crack-er suggests an absence of the cit/city binary that is so central to the representation of the banlieue offered in La Haine. The hegemonic space of central Paris does not feature, nor is it alluded to by any of the characters in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er. The cits proximity to the capital is implied by the inclusion of one scene which begins in an RER station, but little more. Instead, the mise en scne of Ma 6-T Va Crack-er privileges the banks of flats and public spaces of the HLM estate, which form the sole point of reference in the film for spectator and protagonist alike.



The banlieue is, moreover, viewed as an intensely territorial space in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er, reflected in the violent confrontations between male residents of the cit and youths of a rival gang from a nearby estate. However, it is the police who are most implicitly coded as outsiders in the cit. Following the arrest of two lycens in the schoolyard for an alleged assault, a pair of slightly older residents discuss the police intervention in terms of an occupying force (la police ne doivent pas entrer dans la cit faut pas que a devienne territoire occup), suggesting that their mere presence (le fait quils sont l) gives rise to feelings of hostility amongst the youths of the cit. This sentiment is reinforced by Richets portrayal of police activity on the run-down housing estate. Early on in the film, officers conduct an aggressive identity check of three young men innocently killing time outside one of the HLM in the cit. This notion of the cit as un territoire occup is further compounded by the riot sequence at the end of Ma 6-T Va Crack-er. The violence displayed by the disenfranchised male youth from the estate is seen by Richet as a legitimate response to police brutality: rioting is triggered by the police killing of a teenager from the cit, shot following the theft of a car.13 Cross-cutting between the rioting youths and the police, Richet contrasts the spontaneous, anarchic violence of the banlieusards (burning cars, smashing up phone boxes) with the ordered units of the CRS who advance beyond the police barricades to confront the rioters and contain the threat of alienated male youth within the cit. The disadvantaged urban periphery thus functions (paradoxically) as the centre of social relations in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er, the sole point de repre for both the protagonists and the audience. Unlike many of the other so-called banlieue films of the 1980s and 1990s (La Haine, Ra, Le Th au harem dArchimde) Richet does not include an episode in the narrative where youths from the cit venture into the centre of the capital. Paris, as hegemonic city space, is entirely absent from the screen in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er. Richets representation of the banlieue is, none the less, problematic. Clearly there is a sincere attempt by the filmmaker not only to depict the violent realities of life in the cit (drawn from Richets own lived experience) but also to capture the hostility and sense of anger felt towards the state by many of the disenfranchised youth of the banlieue. However, by foregrounding these violent confrontations with rival gangs and the police, it could be argued that Ma 6-T Va Crack-er adds to the already exaggerated media representation of the disadvantaged urban periphery as the site of violence and delinquency which warrants the repressive police presence.14 Similarly, the insistence on the division between insiders (the young male population of the cit) outsiders (the police) does little more than invert the centre/margin binary depicted in La Haine. Ma 6-T Va Crack-er identifies the cit as the centre of social relations, yet the urban periphery is still viewed in binary terms as separated or other-ed from the space inhabited by the dominant societal norm. Through their respective reliance on the binary relation between cit/city and insider/outsiders both La Haine and Ma 6-T Va Crack-er (in spite of their intentions) effectively perpetuate the very ideological modes of social and spatial division that identify the banlieue as the emblematic site of fracture sociale in France today.



Media (mis)representation and the filmmakers relation to the urban periphery: cit stereotype or insider realism? As H argreaves suggests, this binary construct of the banlieue as site of the threatening, alienated other is determined to a large extent by a highly selective and distorted m edia representation. 15 The m ainstream medias role in creating the negative stereotype of the cit as a space of exclusion, violence and crime is only discretely alluded to in one scene of Ma 6-T Va Crack-er. As a group of youths from the cit kill time outside the local supermarket, the camera passes over a poster advertising Le Nouvel Observateur, with a cover story entitled Les cits o la police ne va plus. Richet thus acknowledges the collusion on the part of the mainstream media in stigmatising the youth of the cit, but chooses not to pursue this issue elsewhere in the film. La Haine, on the other hand, confronts the media (mis)representation of the disadvantaged urban periphery far more directly (and severely) from the outset. In the films opening sequence, our first taste of the cit is mediatised through the TV documentary footage of demonstrations in Paris against police brutality and the newsreaders account of the previous nights disturbances in the cit following a further bavure against a young Maghrebi-French resident (Abdel). Throughout La Haine the media only appear to show an interest in Vinz, Sad and Hubert when they conform to the negative stereotypes associated with the disenfranchised male youth of the cit. Photographers are on hand to capture the trios fracas with the attending police officers at the hospital when they are denied access to visit Abdel. The television crew who arrive in the cit after the riots are (presumably) too afraid to leave their vehicle, requesting an interview from Vinz, Hubert and Sad with the motor still running. Insulted by this intrusion the trio throw stones at the car, effectively conforming to their expected role as hostile and aggressive voyous.16 This pattern of behaviour is repeated in the second half of La Haine, when having journeyed into Paris, Vinz, Hubert and Sad gatecrash a private viewing in a modern art gallery. Betrayed as outsiders by their dress and languageSad still carrying the bruises on his face from the police interrogationthe trio are soon ejected by the proprietor. Their removal prompts a hail of insults from Vinz, ending with Hubert overturning a table as he exits. Ultimately, their behaviour is seen by those present in the gallery to endorse the stereotype of the banlieusard as aggressive delinquent. Yet, elsewhere, the trio fail to conform to their image as violent threat to society. Despite his displays of macho bravado in possession of the stolen police gun, Vinz is unable to pull the trigger and kill the skinhead to avenge the death of Abdel. La Haine therefore questions the effect of media (mis)representation, not only on the outsiders understanding of the banlieue, but also the way in which the inhabitants of the disadvantaged cits come to perceive their own identity and the space in which they live. Moreover, Kassovitz exposes the humanity behind the negative stereotypes of the banlieusard : Hubert deals drugs, but uses much of the money to support his family. It is clear from his portrayal of Vinz, Said and Hubert that Kassovitz is sympathetic to the problems faced by the residents of the disadvantaged Parisian banlieue. He actively encouraged the involvement of the local community in the films produc-



tion, living on location in the cit for two months prior to the filming of La Haine. During the intense media attention that followed La Haines release in May 1995, he angrily denied suggestions that throug h his film he was attempting to act as a spokesperson for the disenfranchised youth of the banlieue. Elsewhere, Kassovitz claimed that La Haine was intended to inform an audience who had little or no contact with the banlieuewhose understanding of the social malaise experienced in the deprived areas of the urban periphery cam e solely from the hegemonic discourse offered by the mainstream media.17 In this respect, La Haines representation of space in binary terms of cit/city seeks to highlight the social injustice that exists between centre and margin rather than simply reinforcing stereotypes of the banlieue. It is none the less a problematic representation (as Kassovitz readily admits) given the directors position as an outsider to the disadvantaged cits of the urban periphery.18 The filmmakers clear sensitivity toward this issue could, moreover, be interpreted as largely responsible for his stylised vision of the banlieue. For example, Kassovitz claims to have chosen to film in black and white to produce a more aesthetically pleasing look for cit.19 Yet this preference could also reflect a desire to distance the film from the supposed realism or truth associated with the colour images of TV news reports and documentary footage of run-down housing estates in the banlieue.20 Commenting on the aesthetic representation of the cit in La Haine, Kassovitz insisted:
Ce film a cot 15 millions de francs. On aurait pu le faire pour 300 000 francs, mais aurait t un autre film. Moi, je ne voulais pas un film de cit tourn avec des bouts de ficelle Cest une fiction trs travaille, pas un reportage sur la vie des cits.21

The inclusion of the scene in La Haine where the camera floats over the top of the cit, as if following the music emanating from the decks and speakers of the local DJ, is a clear example of this more stylised representation of the urban periphery. The use of the helicopter shot functions to physically remove the spectator from the cit, whilst establishing a certain distance between the cameras gaze/Kassovitzs perspective and the social milieu of the disadvantaged urban periphery represented on screen. The aesthetic and technical choices that motivate the representation of the disadvantaged urban periphery and its marginalised inhabitants in La Haine therefore reflect a sympathetic portrayal of the banlieue offered by a non-marginal filmmaker conscious of his status as outsider in the cit. One could argue quite the opposite for the representation of the cit offered by Richet. As with his first feature tat des lieux (1995), Richet chose to locate Ma 6-T Va Crack-er in Meauxthe banlieue to the east of Paris where he was raised and still livedand to cast mostly local, non-professi onal actors. The resulting intimacy between director, protagonists and social space being filmed has implications for the aesthetic representation of the cit. Richet frequently positions the camera in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er amongst the protagonists from the citeither moving within the group from one individual to another, or else following directly behind the characters. The spectator thus adopts the point of view of the young male banlieusards. In contrast to Kassovitzs more stylised vision of the urban periphery, Richets use of hand-held



cameras, the films ostensibly improvised dialogue, and the choice of standard colour film stock, lend Ma 6-T Va Crack-er a quasi-documentary style. This is further reinforced by the films rejection of the classic narrative structure. In a style which Richet claims mirrors the rhythm of life in the cit, the plot seems to move randomly from one group or incident to the next, with characters drifting in and out the narrative.22 Rather than functioning to advance the narrative or reveal the motivations of the protagonists, the improvised dialogue of Ma 6-T Va Crack-er often appears as a more personal reflection on life in the deprived banlieue, with the non-professio nal actors (who themselves originate from Meaux) investing their own emotions and experiences of life in the cit into the diegesis. In many respects, then, the intensely personal nature of Ma 6-T Va Crack-erfor both Richet and the castblurs the boundaries between realist fiction and documentary in the film. A further distinction between La Haine and Ma 6-T Va Crack-er comes in the significance that individual protagonists from the cit are afforded within the narrative. Kassovitz chooses to focus on the trio of Vinz, Hubert and Sad as representative of the banlieues alienated youth. The characters are introduced one by one to the spectator at the beginning of the film with some form of visual signature Sads graffiti, Vinzs personalised ring, a poster advertising Huberts most recent boxing boutthus highlight ing the ir central im portance w ithin the diege sis. Narrative focus in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er, on the other hand, shifts between the gang of delinquent youths (Arco, Malik and Mustafa) and the slightly older group of unemployed males (Djeff, JM, Pete and Hamouda). Richet makes no attempt to introduce these characters to the spectator or develop their individual personas, preferring to frame the group of protagonists within a medium shot, or else employing more mobile camerawork to negotiate a position for the spectator within the male gang. Unlike the final scene of La Haine, where the audience, already stunned by the death of Vinz, are entirely focused on the fate of Hubert as the gunshot rings out offscreen, the impact of Maliks death at the hands of the police in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er is overshadow ed by the mass rioting that follows. Richet is therefore encouraging the spectator to identify with the male-youth population as a whole and the lived social space of the cit (le social), not the fate of the individual. However, Ma 6-T Va Crack-ers sustained emphasis on the banlieue as the exclusive territory of disenfranchised male youth makes it almost impossible for Richet to represent his social beyond the perspective of the cits young male residents: the voice of the older generation and female residents goes unheard. This decision to focus on the collective in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er must be viewed in relation to Richet position as a committed Marxist: je voulais parler [dans Ma 6-T Va Crack-er] du sous proltariat dans un groupe [ ] des gens qui nont aucun pouvoir conomique donc pas la possibilit davoir travers le travail une conscience politique.23 Whereas the consideration of fracture sociale in La Haine is atomised (concentrating on the experiences of the three central protagonists) Ma 6-T Va Crack-er attempts to locate the problems of delinquency, violence and exclusion in their wider socio-political context: portraying the role of capitalist state institutions in perpetuating the exclusion of what the filmmaker perceives to be the alienated underclass of the disadvantaged urban periphery. Richets openly politicised stance also



has an effect on the aesthetic decisions made by the director in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er. Richet has stated his belief that, as an oppositional filmmaker working within an essentially bourgeois medium (cinema), his films should offer a form resistance to dominant ideology. In cinematic terms, this amounts to a refusal of the spectacular when filming the disadvantaged cit. During the riot scenes, for example, Richet claims to have filmed the action hauteur dhomme 2 4 (rejecting the use of aerial camerawork or short focus which would isolate the individual) in order to remain faithful to what he perceives as the political reality of the situation being captured on film: the uprising of an excluded sub-class in the face of state oppression; rioting as legitimised violence.25 In response to his more reactionary critics, Richet has defended his portrayal of the police in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er as realist rather than negative. 26 Nevertheless, the films vehemently anti-police stance is effectively necessitated by the filmmakers own militant political position. Clearly, such a message of militant resistance to the forces of law and order could not function if Richet were to consider the possibility that the police could be anything other than oppressive servants of the state. In contrast, Kassovitz allows for a variety of individual subjectivities to emerge, portraying the police as: good (the plain clothes officer from the cit who facilitates the trios release from the commissariat); bad (those, such as Notre-Dame who promote an atmosphere of hostility and aggression between the police and youths of the cit) and indifferent (the young officer who passively colludes in the interrogation of Sad and Hubert). Moreover, Kassovitz has defined his film not as anti-flic, but anti-systme policier.27 La Haine thus criticises a police system which leaves officers ill-prepared to deal with the explosive situation in the banlieue and continues to tolerate the presence of racist thugs such as those who interrogate Sad and Hubert, but stops short of portraying all police officers as inherently bad. The combination of Richets political beliefs and his proximity to the ban lieue does not allow the luxury of greater objectivity afforded to a sympathetic outsider such as Kassovitz. Kassovitzs extensive consideration of the medias role in shaping the public perception of the ban lieue, for instance, is acknowledged by Richet but not directly addressed in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er, since the filmmaker deems the reality of social violence (exclusion, poverty) and state oppression as more urgent concerns to be highlighted in the film. Conclusion Both La Haine and Ma 6-T Va Crack-er offer a vision of the banlieue, this other Paris, as the site of socio-economic deprivation, and a space dominated by disenfranchised male youth. Kassovitz highlights the contrast between Paris and the urban periphery, whilst Richet focuses exclusively on the cit as the centre of social relations. In La Haine, the ideological construct of the banlieue is placed on screen to be challenged: the more complex relations which exist between centre and margin and the divisions which exist within both separate entities are laid bare. Kassovitzs position as a sympathetic outsider to the cit arguably produces an aesthetic which aims to separate the filmmaker somewhat from the social milieu he is representing.



This distance between the director and the films subject also allows Kassovitz what we might term the luxury of greater objectivityparticularly in his treatment of the police. In contrast, Richets proximity to the social space that he is depicting on screen permits a far more intimate, and some might say realistic, representation of the cit. The intensely subjective perspective offered in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er is combined with an uncompromising, Marxist interpretation of the current social crises facing the residents of the disadvantaged banlieue. Richet thus sees the exclusion experienced by residents in the cit as part of a larger class struggle, locating the urban periphery as the site of violent (sub)proletarian resistance to hegemony, rather than a space of exclusion in relation to the centre. Clearly, La Haine and Ma 6-T Va Crack-er aim to highlight the social injustices experienced by the inhabitants of the disadvantaged urban periphery. Yet their dependence on the notion of the cit as the exclusive territory of disenfranchised male youth could, potentially, be used to reinforce negative, hegemonic stereotypes of the banlieue. Viewed in this light, such an explicit (and apparently inescapable) link between the banlieue and the stigmatised cit ultimately prevents La Haine and Ma 6-T Va Crack-er (along with the majority of so-called banlieue films from the 1990s) from mounting a sustained challenge to the representation of the urban periphery as anything other than the site of the alienated, delinquent male other.28 Notes and references
1. This figure is quoted in HARGREAVES, A.G., A deviant construction: the French media and the Banlieues, New Community, 22(4) (October 1996), p. 613. 2. The term banlieue will therefore be used in this article in reference to this association with the disadvantaged cits of the urban periphery . 3. For a detailed analysis of the banlieue as site of exclusion , see DUBET, F. and LAPEYRONNIE, D., Les Quartiers dexil (Seuil, 1992) and BEGAG, A. and ROSSINI, R., Du bon usage de la distance chez les sauvageon s (Seuil, 1999). On the cit as stigmatised space, see LEPOUTRE, D., Cur de banlieue: codes, rites et langage s (Odile Jacob, 1997) and WACQUANT, L., Urban outcasts: stigma and division in the black American ghetto and the French urban periphery, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 17(3) (1993), pp. 36683. 4. For example, Les 3000 dAulnay [an HLM estate to the north of Paris] was built in the 1970s to house the workers at Citrons newest car plant. See MASPERO, F., Les Passagers du Roissy Express (Seuil, 1990), p. 52. 5. SOJA, E., Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Im agined Places (Blackwell, 1995), p. 87. 6. See DUBET and LAPEYRONNIE, Les Quartiers dexil, pp. 79-86. 7. TARR, C., French cinema and post-colonial minorities, in A. HARGREAVES and M. MCKINNEY (eds), Post Colonial Cultures in France (Routledge, 1997), p. 78. 8. PRDAL R., 50 ans du cinma franais (Nathan, 1996), p. 696. This appears to be an unsourced reference to interview given by Kassovitz to Positif (juin 1995). 9. Kassovitz interviewed in Positif (juin 1995), p. 10. 10. Kassovitz describes this shot as un tracking compens in his interview with Positif, ibid. 11. REYNAUD, B., Lehood: Hate and its neighbors , Film Comment (MarchApril 1996), p. 55. 12. The officers mockingly describe Sad as mignon, tell Hubert that his resistance during the interrogation is a sexual turn-on (a mexcite) and repeatedly refer to the pair as petites suceuses. 13. Further evidence of the legitimisation of the rioting can be seen in the fact that at the end of the film




15. 16.

17. 18. 19. 20.

21. 22.

23. 24. 25.

26. 27. 28.

Richet cites article 35 of the Droits de lhomme et du citoyen: quand le gouvernement viole les droits du peuple, linsurrection est pour le peuple le plus sacr des droits et le plus indispensible des devoirs. COPPERMANN, A., Encore les violences en banlieue, Les chos (2 juillet 1997). In her review of Ma 6-T Va Crack-er, Coppermann stated: Aujourdhui o les adolescents sont dj gavs dimages de violence, on peut se demander si cette nouvelle surench re la sincrit incontestable apporte vraiment une contribution neuve et utile au dossier de plus en plus explosif des banlieues . HARGREAVES, A deviant construction . Such prejudicial assumptions made by those from the centre about the disenfranchised male youth of La Haine are colluded with by older residents from the citfor example, the elderly man who accuses Sad of having been involved in previous nights rioting. Interview with Kassovitz, Cest pas interdit de parler aux mecs des banlieues , Tlrama (31 mai 1995), p. 43. Malheureusemen t pour le film, je nai pas de crdibilit et je ne peux que susciter une certaine amertume chez les gens dont on parle; Kassovitz interviewed in Libration (31 mai 1995). See remarks made in an interview: Mathieu Kassovitz: le noir et blanc draine plus de ralisme, LHumanit (29 mai 1995). Interestingly, the use of black and white instead of colour can be seen as a means of authenticating the truth behind the representation on screenfor example, Spielbergs use of black and white in Schindler s List (1993) to portray the horrific reality of the Holocaust. In the case of La Haine it is Kassovitzs intention to distance his cinematic representation from any such notion. Interview with Kassovitz, Cest pas interdit, Tlrama (31 mai 1995), p. 44. In the press release for Ma 6-T Va Crack-er Richet describes the narrative as: construit comme une toile daraigne: on quitte un personnage , on retrouve un autre groupe, qui clate, on retrouve le personnage quon avait quitt un peu plus tt, etc. Cest a la vie dans la cit . Interview with Richet: Ma 6-T Craque de Partout, Libration (17 mai 1997). The term used by Richet to describe the camerawork for the riot scenes in Ma 6-T Va Crack-er in an interview for Reprages, 8 (octobre/novembre 1999), Dossier: provoc et cinma. In an interview with Christine Masson, Richet described Ma 6-T Va Crack-er as un film politique, claiming on nest pas l pour faire du spectaculaire. Dans un film daction tu dois sduire. Je ne pouvais pas le faire avec Ma 6-T, in MARIE, M., Le Jeune Cinma franais (Nathan 1998), p. 115. In an interview with Premire magazine Richet stated: Les flics ne sont pas montrs dune faon negative mais raliste; Ma 6-T va parler, Premire (juillet 1997), p. 60. Cest pas interdit, Tlrama (31 mai 1995), p. 46. The few notable exceptions to this representative trait include Malik Chibanes three films: Hexagone (1994); Douce France (1995); N quelque part (1998) and Ghorab Voltas Souviens- toi de moi (1996).

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