French cinema is the high-visibility indicator of a great country's cultural hara-kiri. Awards ceremonies are always fundamentally political, but in France they're actually... fundamentalist. After winning at Cannes last years, the film A Prophet was fawned over at the Césars, with no less than nine awards. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best... etcetera.
The film celebrates the "rise" and deification of an illiterate petty criminal. It's an extremist vision of emancipation: Europe (represented by the Corsican Mafia and the prison screws) is a waning and thoroughly racist Old Guard, virtually a minority in a society (the prison) dominated by observant Islamists, in which to flourish is to claim one's racial origin (the hero's switch to an Arab rather than a French allegiance), and in which to gain respect is to conquer (through murder and a large-scale drug cartel), with a little help from the Koran (via a handy spiritual guide and former murder victim).
Of course - as everyone keeps telling me - it's "really well made". (So what? So was Avatar. So were the gas chambers.) But it's not even that it is so remarkably anti-Western that is so remarkable; it's the fact of being so roundly lauded by the well-meaning cultural class. The worst thing about the new extremism is not the thing itself, but the adoration it receives within the society it is destroying. I becomes its cause celebre. As I wrote in a earlier post:
[A prophet] presses all the right leftist buttons: the idea that the only crime is to imprison people (Foucault); the nobility of the savage (Rousseau); the sacralisation of other cultures/races (Levi-Strauss) vs. an assumed guilt for ones own (almost all 20th century French thinkers).
Strangely, the film is apparently exempt from any criticism of racial stereotyping. If I was a Muslim, I bet I'd be a little offended at the example it offers for making friends and influencing people in the West. Not to mention the use of the word Prophet - in such a non-peaceful context...
As for the implied "prophesy", are we supposed to lament it? Or laud it? The ending clearly suggests the latter. The French forgot to give A Prophet a bonus well-deserved award at the Césars: Best Suicide Note of The West.
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