Back in early September, which feels longer ago than it probably should, regular commenter Chris offered the following (non-Oscar-related) prediction:
You need to see “A Prophet”, I saw it two days ago, and it’s such an amazing film. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but I’m predicting it to be on Guy Lodge’s top 10 of the year, just so you know what kind of film it is.
Either I am terribly predictable, or Chris is a very wise man — we’ll flatter us both and say the latter — but after staggering out of this morning’s London Film Festival press screening, I see no way this doesn’t come to pass.
There will likely be plenty of opportunities to discuss this stunner in the months to come (Kris already offered a brief take from Telluride), but suffice to say that the great Jacques Audiard has exceeded his previous career high-water mark, “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” with this expansive, brutal, darkly funny and richly compassionate character study.
A ‘prison movie’ in approximately the same way that “Raging Bull” is a ‘boxing movie,’ “A Prophet” surprises with the heft and muscularity of its storytelling, given the delicate, whispery nature of Audiard’s previous work. It does, however, continue the auteur’s knack for mining astonishing breakout performances from young actors, as near- novice Tahar Rahim splinters the screen as a 19 year-old illiterate enduring the harshest passage into adulthood imaginable.
(The glory isn’t all his: veteran Niels Arestrup would be in the thick of Best Supporting Actor discussion for his terrifying, yet curiously vulnerable, performance as an aging prison don.)
“You work for an awards site,” Telegraph critic Tim Robey remarked to me, only semi-jokingly, after the screening. “Isn’t it now your job to remind everyone that this needs to get one of the 10 Best Picture slots?” For all my concerns that even the foreign-language branch won’t respond to filmmaking this blood-stained and hard-edged, I’ll do my best.
On a side note, I couldn’t help noticing that two of my favorite films of the year now feature thrilling sequences cut to the music of the same artist. (For his, Audiard has actually delved into the upper reaches of my iPod’s most-played list.) Is Nas a new art-house standby?