Thursday, August 20, 2009

Under 250: The Class (Entre les Murs)

Real-life Parisian teacher Francois Begandeau stars as a version of himself in The Class, a sprawling work of cinema-vérité chronicling the highs and lows over an entire school year within a racially mixed city classroom. If it sounds like another uplifting school teacher story, forget it. This ain't no Freedom Writers. In fact, Marin and director Laurent Cantet seem to go to great lengths to retain a certain level of moral ambiguity on both sides of the teacher/student relationship. No one is clearly 'in the right' here, and conflict runs rampant. The kids are riveting to watch, and every argument rings with an element of familiar adolescent truth. Behind the scenes, we're given a second level of drama in teacher conferences and conduct panels as they discuss the well-being of the students and debate their placement and development within the educational system. Frequently surprising and consistently spot-on, The Class transcends its language barriers and presents a fully formed portrait of the educational construct. Be forewarned, though, this isn't a quick and breezy movie, it's a long haul, like the school year itself.

4 out of 5.

The Class, dir. Laurence Cantet, stars: Francois Begandeau, rated PG-13, Running Time: 128 min.

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