Friday, January 23, 2009

Entre les murs, aka THE CLASS

THE CLASS (Entre les murs)" (dir. Laurent Cantet, France, 2008, 128 mins.) Announced as an Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film for 2008, from France (as well as this year's winner of the Palm d'Or at Cannes), Laurent Cantet's film has received nearly as much notice for its method as its result. Cantet gathered a group of teenagers to improvise a year long cinema verite' of life in a classroom, under the tutelage of François Bégaudeau, author of the book Entre les Murs (Between the Walls), which the film is based on. It is an unusual film that lends itself to study, as it contains layers of topics. There is the multi-cutural group of kids, representing France's immigrant culture; the rapid fire discourse of French language (which is quite the topic there); the power struggle between teacher, class and administration; and all of this is presented in rapid fire dialogue! There are points that I began to tire from trying to keep up! I wished there was a silent moment or a pause, but the energy of the class is non-stop. It is a film predominantly about language and how to communicate it. In fact, the climax is set off by the use of the word "skank". The classroom itself almost becomes a pressure cooker, with only a few select moments outside of it, meaning in the principal's office or in the yard, as the film never leaves the grounds. Parents are brought in and not viewed from home.

François Bégaudeau gives a performance reflecting the frustration he must have faced (or faces now?) as a teacher. And the students are all frightening convincing in their roles, however much Cantet has interviewed that these were true performances of their alter-egos. Particular stand-outs are Esmeralda Ouertani and Franck Keita (Sandra and Souleymane, respectively). They are both fiercely protrayed: she obnoxiously so, he in quiet anger. The rest of the huge cst fill thier roles as participants and spectators to the central conflicts between teacher and Sandra and Souleymane. And most interestingly, the teacher is NOT the savior of these young minds, but an ambiguous, if nearly trivial part of their education. I would dare to say that some educators may come away angered or depressed by the final moment as the year comes to an end. However, that intentional divergence from classroom heroics is what lends THE CLASS its power.

Maxxxxx says
re THE CLASS: unintelligible, but excited chatter!

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