The Class (Cantet, 2008) DVD
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Directed by Laurent Cantet
Produced in 2008
Main Language - French with English subtitles
Mike McCahill believes this award-winning account of modern classroom life has been justly lauded.
In the beginning, there was the word. Laurent Cantet’s justly lauded account of contemporary classroom life owes its existence to a bestselling tome published by former teacher François Bégaudeau in 2006. Two years on at Cannes, jury foreman Sean Penn would describe Cantet’s adaptation, which came out of nowhere to take the Palme d’Or at the last minute, and would go on to land an Oscar nod for Best Foreign Language Film, as the one truly political work he and his fellow jurors had seen all festival.
Penn was right: Cantet’s film, like the book before it, acknowledges the school as one of the few fully political sites in society, and (in theory, at least) a democratic one at that: a place where everyone gets a say ‘as long as they’re polite’. The director, known for piercing analyses of the modern workplace (Human Resources, Time Out), here turns his camera on not just beleaguered French teacher M. Marin (played by Bégaudeau himself), his students and colleagues, but the parents and auxiliary staff that keep any school functioning.
At The Class’s heart though, lies the push-and-pull between teacher, attempting to impart knowledge, and pupils, trying to challenge Marin’s state-given authority wherever possible, on issues of sexuality, race, and speech. Lengthy, gripping sequences map out those sparky afternoons when everyone’s keen to contribute, and the gloomy mornings where nobody’s done their homework, half the class is asleep, and – this is where Cantet and Bégaudeau excel – only a spell of brilliant, engaged teaching can dispel the clouds.
Credit Cantet with scrupulous balance in showing both how the education system works and where it doesn’t; credit Bégaudeau with incarnating everything we expect a modern teacher to be (referee, social worker, stand-up, alchemist); credit, too, the teenage performers, whose improvisations perfectly lay out youth’s complexities. But, language being so essential here, save equal praise for the subtitlers, negotiating with supreme skill the declensions of irregular verbs and the argot of inner-city Paris.
Mike McCahill on 28th April 2009
Author of 338 reviews
Palme d'Or winner at Cannes 2008. The tense environment of a tough inner-city school in Paris where cultures and attitudes often clash is revealed in this award-winning drama based on François Bégaudeau’s best-selling novel 'Between the Walls'.
Bégaudeau himself stars as an idealistic teacher of a class of unruly 15 year-olds, whose spiky independence present a constant challenge to his sometimes unconventional teaching methods. Featuring an outstanding non-professional cast of real teachers and students, Laurent Cantet’s gripping and sharply observed film offers a microcosm of contemporary society and explores the issues and challenges of education today. The end result is gripping, thought-provoking, funny and highly enjoyable.
Publisher: Artificial Eye
Length: 130 mins
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 22nd March 2010
Cat No: ART454DVD
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