With his latest work Paris, 13th District premiering at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival launching this week, revisit Jacques Audiard’s unflinching masterpiece detailing the transformation of Tahar Rahim’s petty criminal to gang boss.
Malik El-Djebena arrives in prison to serve six years for assaulting police officers. He is illiterate and alone. Identifying his weakness, Corsican gang boss César (Niels Arestrup) agrees to offer protection. But it comes at a price. Sickened by the crime he is ordered to commit, Malick nevertheless complies. But instead of breaking him, the act strengthens Malick’s resolve and as he grows closer to César he realises that his destiny lies in a different, dangerous direction.
Audiard is the master of the French crime thriller. With See How They Fall, Read My Lips and the sublime The Beat That My Heart Skipped (which featured an earlier outstanding performance by Arestrup), he has earned the mantle once held by Jean-Pierre Melville. A Prophet’s success derives from Audiard’s taut direction and Rahim’s stunning central performance. It’s a riveting rags-to-riches crime tale. And as with all of Audiard’s films, it is sensitively scored by Alexandre Desplat – cementing a director-composer relationship that ranks alongside Hitchcock and Hermann, Fellini and Rota, and Spielberg and Williams.