May 23, 2008

Cannes. The Class.

"With the Official Competition having been widely regarded as generally decent but lacking in knock-out fare, the late showing of The Class (Entre les Murs) came as an extremely welcome surprise," writes Time Out's Geoff Andrew.

The Class

"Directed and co-written by Laurent Cantet (Human Resources, Time Out), the film is set in a school in the Parisian suburbs... The movie initially comes on like a documentary... Gradually, however, a narrative thread beings to emerge from the sometimes heated, sometimes cordial, always fertile dialogue between the teacher and his pupils."

"[E]ven though it takes place entirely 'entre les murs,' it offers a rich microcosm of today's multi-ethnic French population and fascinating insights into the complicated dilemmas and misunderstandings which teaching - and indeed learning - can entail," writes Mike Goodridge in Screen Daily. "The film demands that the viewer pay attention to long talkative sequences in the classroom which may be offputting to some, although the characters of the kids are so colourful as to render all these sequences humorous and lively."

Sales are brisk, reports Elsa Bertet in Variety.

Online viewing tip. Trailer (no subtitles).

Update, 5/24: "Mr Cantet is motivated above all by a passionate curiosity about the way people live, and he directs with such sensitivity and skill that his curiosity becomes contagious," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "It is not enough to call him a realist, though he is surely at the forefront of the current wave of realism in European cinema. It's simpler to say that his movies tell the truth."

Update, 5/25: Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay points to's notes on the press conference and the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips:

It plays out with the ease and fluidity of a fine documentary. Cantet developed much of the material through improvisation, but he never pushes his young nonactors to act. Rather, he lets them simply be, and he trusts that the situation he creates will be enough to sustain us. It's more than enough. As Begaudeau asserts in the film's press materials, "Everyone is right in this story." He also notes that the film strove to avoid a kind of patness and elocutionary slickness, lest the result, in his words, end up "a left-wing Dead Poets' Society."

This Cannes highlight already has been sold to various international territories for distribution. American distribution seems very likely as well, which would be good news indeed.

"Begaudeau's interactions with his students are so nuanced and smart that it doesn't feel like the heavy hand of drama when various incidents and events escalate as the film progresses; they feel natural, lived in, human," writes James Rocchi at Cinematical. "Cantet's previous films - Heading South, Time Out, Human Resources - all explored the same sort of territory as The Class does, with the interactions between people in relationships defined by power as their prime concern. And, put like that, it makes Canet sound like a one-topic filmmaker; instead, though, his filmography has quietly, credibly taken on heft and power as he tackles tough questions and tells fascinating stories few filmmakers in France - or, for that matter the world - would have the skill or courage to depict so well."

Update, 5/27: "Entre les Murs is a tete-a-tete between France and its educational system," writes Agnès Poirier in the Guardian. "It may also be seen as the trial of France by its aspiring citizens":

This not Alan Bennett's The History Boys. No talk of preparing for Oxford or any grande école. Cantet's pupils are Rousseau's bons sauvages. Teaching them the past subjunctive becomes a herculean task and a confrontation between old and new France; helping them to express themselves becomes a struggle of Dantesque proportion in which the fear of revealing too much of one's roots leads to clashes with the teacher's authority; interesting them in literature turns into an olympian achievement. In the process, the question of identity comes back again and again.

Also in the Guardian: Lanie Goodman gets an interview with Cantet.

"The movie sharply points out the French pedagogical tendency of 'confrontation,' the intensely critical or questioning nature where nothing is out of bounds, like the teacher's sexual orientation," writes Patrick Z McGavin at Stop Smiling.

"Think Stand and Deliver or Dangerous Minds without the Hollywood formula, or Half Nelson without the drugs," suggests the Hollywood Reporter's Steven Zeitchik.

Updates, 5/29: "Cantet returns to the contemporary social and work-related issues of his earlier features... Again an austere but acutely observed drama with a quasi-documentary style, Entre les murs impresses with its veracious tone and nuanced characterisations, though when late into the proceedings Cantet tries to impose a more rigid order on the until then Altmanesque portrait of banlieue-school dynamics, its narrow focus on a particular incident diminishes the force of the film as a whole," writes Boyd van Hoeij at

"[T]here is much to be impressed by, including Cantet and veteran screenplay collaborator Robin Campillo's keen observations of class, race, the politics of language, the asserting of adolescent identity and the classroom as simulacrum of the outside world (which, in keeping with the film's French title, Between the Walls, we never see after the opening scene)," writes Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly. "As the son of a public-school educator with some 40 years under her belt, I was moved."

FilmInFocus runs an extract from Peter Cowie's interview with Cantet in Projections 15: European Cinema (2007).

Coverage of the coverage: Cannes 08.

Last year: Cannes @ 60. And Cannes 06.

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Posted by dwhudson at May 23, 2008 10:48 AM


that was actually A.O. Scott, not Dargis.

Posted by: hanimal at May 24, 2008 1:49 PM

Right you are - thanks for catching that.

Posted by: David Hudson at May 24, 2008 1:56 PM