On the surface, Oscar-nominated A Prophet is a French prison drama. Malik is a young man of Arab descent who can't read or write. He finds himself in jail and must navigate the power hierarchies of his cellmates. Malik undergoes a metamorphosis, surviving an Oz-like hazing and developing his own position of power in the criminal world. Although critics have called it a Gallic Goodfellas, the director, Jacques Audiard, has said A Prophet is the anti-Scarface. Audiard used actual ex-cons as advisers on the production in order to strike the right gritty chord. There are the requisite scenes of bloody shootouts and gory prison violence. But Malik is a moral antihero in the amoral subculture of prison. Through Malik's transformation, Audiard makes audiences question their empathy. Dostoevsky couldn't have done it better. A Prophet won the Grand Prix at the 2009 Cannes.
Fri., May 7, 6:50 p.m., 2010