The older that I get, I find it harder and harder to get myself to the theater. Out of fear that I will become one of those people that waits to see films largely through my Netflix que, I find myself looking for different films that might strike enough interest to actually see it outside of the realm of streaming. The problem lately is that rarely do I see a trailer that strikes up this kind of interest.
That being said, I fully realize that this time of year is not geared towards my personal taste. I went to Catholic school for eighteen years, and the Jesus story that has been adapted into every super hero movie over the past twenty years is old hat. Sure, I enjoyed Iron Man, but that doesn't mean I want to race out and see Robert Downey, Jr mugging it up in between fight scenes for Iron Man 2. Let me guess, he's going to have to make some sort of sacrifice towards the end, right? The summer tent pole movie is not made for me and that fact has become evidently clear.
When I did drag myself from the couch and the on-going NBA Playoffs (Go Celtics!), I chose to go another route and saw (gasp!) a foreign film. I chose said foreign film for a couple of reasons. I figured while the rest of the texting tweeners and obnoxious theater goers who have started this unnerving trend of convincing themselves that they are the only people in the theater to the point of having full blown conversations during the film were watching Iron Man 2, I could slip past them all and huddle into the smallest screening room possible and avoid potential conflicts. Let's face it, the same guy who is still amazed that Iron Man can fly is the same guy who won't watch foreign films because he, "don't like reading movies." (I would worry about offending said guy, but, seeing as he doesn't like to read, I'm sure the computer is more of a porn box and/or e-mail transporter than anything.) Second, I chose what was supposedly a violent and nerve-wracking film, and, kind of get a kick watching people walking out of movie theaters after witnessing something violent and/or nerve-wracking. (One of my greatest experiences being the two rows of people I watched leave during a screening of Pulp Fiction in Monroe, Louisiana. I think you can guess the scene.) Point being, the older I get, I am getting more and more disturbed by the modern day movie-goer.
So what could possibly drag me out of my house and be worthwhile? The film is called A Prophet and is one of the best gangster films that I have seen since Goodfellas. French filmmaker Jacques Audiard paints one of most realistic and gripping portraits of the modern day criminal, yet adding moments of the surreal to give a genre a much needed shot of adrenaline. Tahar Rahim (in an absolutely brilliant performance on the level of DeNiro's Johnny Boy in Mean Streets) plays a young Arab prisoner who over the course of the film is introduced to the various levels of the criminal underworld that run a Parisian prison. (These various levels strangely resembling how most major industries run.) Audiard is able to tell an almost Shakespearean level tragedy with a modern edge that keeps the viewer riveted throughout.
It seems that today's European filmmakers have gone the opposite route of the modern American cinema. While studio after studio invests in the fad of 3-D, most prominent European filmmakers have made a point to go more bare-bones. Embracing cinema verite techniques such as long tracking shots and use (sometimes overuse) of hand held to interject realism into every frame, enveloping the viewer into the world of the film. It was refreshing, in the sense of A Prophet, to see this realism brought to the crime drama genre that at it's best is classic filmmaking (The Godfather, Casino) and at it's worst overdone to the point of nausea (Suicide Kings, Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead). No matter how many times you have seen the rise of a criminal to the peak of his powers, A Prophet is as engaging as the best of it's kind.
The most surprising part of my experience was the actual viewing experience. At first, watching retirees (the last of people who actually read the newspapers, therefore reading reviews, and therefore not minding when they have to read subtitles) and hipster film students (they are the ones who haven't showered or peeled off their skinny jeans in months who sit in the back to the chagrin of no one but themselves) slowly come in, I was entranced by a seemingly normal family of a father, mother, and daughter enter in last. I waited for them to sit by me and then prepared myself for a soon-to-infamous-razor-blade-scene I had read about before, pondering what expletive the father would yell out as they left the theater, aghast that such things could happen in a prison of all places. But as the scene played out, I was able to peek out of the corner of my own cringing to see that the seemingly normal family was still there after the scene had ended. Not only were they there, but they were just as enthralled with the movie as everyone else in the theater. The retirees, the film school cynic in the ripped Ramones shirt, even my wife (her movie suggestion that day was Letters to Juliet) were so wrapped up in the story (imagine that and we didn't even need glasses) that the entire audience was pinned to their seat. Putting kidneys and bladders in harm's way for the sake of seeing where this character and, more importantly, this movie was going to take us next. The experience alone might have been enough to get me off the couch and back to the theater one or two more times this summer. Even if one of those times is for McGruber.