Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Class

"Between the Walls"

Sean Penn said the decision to give "Entre Les Murs" (aka "The Class," 2008) the Palme D'or at the Cannes Film Festival was "unanimous."

You can see why.

Based on
François Bégaudeau's semi-autobiographical novel, and starring Bégaudeau as the French teacher Mr. Marin, the film perfectly captures the yin and yang, the give/pull-back/resistance that makes up the dynamic of a school class. This is an inner-city Parisian school and the class is made up of many races, many ethnicities and cultures, and strata of society. The teachers are mostly white and come from various backgrounds. The class' mood is contentious. Marin's is challenging and the sides clash many times inside and out of the too-small classroom where kids consider formal French a dead language.

Marin tries to bring them out, to make them see individual self-worth in encouragement while at the same time supressing each unique form of acting out. That dynamic is reflected in the attitudes of all the other teachers influencing and interacting with the students. In the meantime there are the bumps in the road of the day-to-day, the small victories and big defeats, the squeaky wheels and the dependable ones and the ones who get lost in the shuffle through simple neglect. Any teacher who's had to write a syllabus knows these heart-aches—whose felt a career highlight when seeing the light of understanding dawn in a student's eyes, or seen the student you assumed was promising fail miserably. Casting Bégaudeau in his own movie was a gutsy move, but so was creating an acting class from which director Laurent Cantet cast his non-professional school-house of natural performers, who seem to be caught in the act of being by Cantet's camera, rather than performing a screenplay.

It's a brave, unique movie that looks like it was filmed on-the-spot and made up as they went-along, and delivers a close approximation of standing before a hostile audience and wrestling with their resistance to the new.

"The Class" is a Full-Price Ticket

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