Saturday, March 5, 2011

REVIEW: The Class (2008)

The Class (2008). Original title: Entre les murs. Dir: Laurent Cantet. Starring François Bégaudeau, Agame Malembo-Emene, Angélica Sancio. IMDB. In French with English subtitles.

In The Class, writer and teacher François Bégaudeau stars as his own alter-ego, François Marin, a teacher of French in a racially diverse Paris school. His students, 14- and 15-year olds, come from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as well as the arrondissments of Paris; along with the regular chaos of teenagers he's confronted with cultural differences and expectations which he's not always prepared to handle.

Chief among his students are Wei (Wei Huang), a young Chinese boy whose parents have immigration issues, brittle Khoumba (Rachel Regulier) who bristles under Marin's authority, and troubled Souleyman (Franck Keïta), a discipline problem with a talent for photography. Every class is a little battle; the kids chafe against French and adult discipline while the teachers chat and gossip and complain to each other about how difficult the kids are. Things come to a head when the schoolyard grapevine gets wind of how teachers in a committee meeting scrutinized Souleyman's academic and personal prospects, leading to a misunderstanding and a confrontation in the classroom.

The main character of The Class is really the setting- the school with its contradictory and conflicting elements, and the movie, which is very talky, provides a detailed character study of the school. M. Marin and his colleagues are not Mr. Chips and the kids aren't adorable sprites who come to adore their teacher; these are tough kids and tough adults, too, all too aware of their relative positions and the power that comes with them. I thought The Class was a really terrific movie that showed how some fairly realistic conflicts might play out. The kids were terrific- and most of them, from what I understand, were not professional actors. There are no easy answers to be found at the end of The Class but it's a very satisfying film nonetheless.

Rating: RUSH

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed it too, it gave a really sharp view on a difficult area in french cities (though in the book the setting was Marseille I think). If you come across the DVD there's a very interesting backstage section where Bégaudeau talks about the making of, all the work he did with the kids (no professionals, but a real french class) and the road which brought them to Cannes.