A son of a concentration camp victim has always been involved in a life of crime, and on his release from prison finds his resentment for the world coming to the boil.
Remember the fuss that greeted Falling Down? Well, the bile bubbling inside Michael Douglas' "D-fens" is nothing compared to the seething rage that drives the unnamed hero of this brutal and terrifyingly credible film, that is not only a searing indictment of modern France, but also the grimmest black comedy in decades.
From the breathless opening montage to the ambiguously optimistic ending, this is a hugely manipulative feature, as first-time director Noe slowly compels you to identify with this jaundiced individual whose every thought and action fills you with repugnance. The son of a concentration camp victim, the butcher (Nahon) has spent his entire life going uphill. Released from prison for knifing the neighbour he assumed had assaulted his daughter (Lenoir), he pitches up in Lille, only to go on the run after battering his pregnant mistress (Pain). Humiliated in his search for work, he wanders the shabbiest streets of Paris with his sense of resentment and desperation gradually coming to the boil.
With its array of shocking images, crash zooms, soundtrack bangs and belligerent captioning, this stunning film gives you some idea of the thrill audiences must have felt as the young guns of the New Wave abandoned classical storytelling convention and showed how cinema might challenge and provoke.
Some will be put off by the flashy technique, while others will take offence at the stream of consciousness voice-over presenting the bitter thoughts of a simple man whose notion of morality and justice have been cobbled together from half-digested political tracts, bar-room maxims and twisted pieces of logic forged by frustration and poverty. But this is a film that demands you stick with it no matter what your response.
A provocative film and a savage indictment of modern day France.