Oy vey, ten hours on a packed Auckland to Hong Kong flight where the seats don’t actually recline but slouch so your knees are jammed against the seat in front and your spine feels like it’s stabbing your spleen, you can’t really lean back so you when you’re falling asleep you pitch forward, causing you to wake up, and to add insult some bathrooms have been taken out so the airline can add ten more rows to cattle class. And it was still worth the torment because they were showing Un Prophete by Jacques Audiard.
Three years ago I saw Audiard’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped and it blew my eyes out the back of my head, I loved it. I had to collar random strangers and yell “You have to see this!” This year Audiard’s Un Prophete is the one. Advance apologies in case I grab you.
Un Prophete starring Tahar Rahim and Niels Arestrup (who also played the father in The Beat…) is intense, gripping, and wildly entertaining: a story of survival, a coming-of-age movie set in prison, and a meditation on the meaning of freedom. Nobody makes existential thrillers like the French, they invented this stuff. I’ll go into more detail in the coming days, but there’s this scene I have to tell you about.
Malik, an illiterate 19-year-old serving a six-year sentence for assaulting a cop, is being forced by the Corsican mafia in prison to murder a fellow inmate who intends to testify against them. If Malik doesn’t kill the witness, the Corsicans will kill Malik. The plan is for Malik to offer the guy a blowjob, then suddenly stand up and cut the guy’s throat with a razor blade.
So Malik has to practice hiding the razor blade in his cheek and spitting it out. Before he’s done there’s blood all over the sink. I was squirming in my seat, which was a feat since my knees were jammed against the seat in front and my spine was digging into my spleen.