"The Class (Entre Les Murs)"
Directed by Laurent Cantet.
Written by François Bégaudeau.
Starring François Bégaudeau and a bunch of ragtag French kids.
Release Year: 2008
Review Date: 3/16/09
Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film
award at this year's Oscars, I knew that "The Class" was good in at
least a few people's eyes...Meg and I took in a matinee over the
weekend and I thought the film was aces.
That's because no matter where you go, inner
city schools in Paris and L.A. have many of the same problems, and
in taking a view of one school year at a school in a tough part of
town, "The Class" gives us the daily battle that is the life of Mr.
Marin (François Bégaudeau, playing a fictional version of himself as
this is based on his life as a teacher) as he tries to teach French
and life lessons to a multi-ethnic group of teens. (The teens
are actual students, although it is unclear to me if they were
actual students of Bégaudeau's or another teacher.) Some kids
have problems at home; some kids have VISA problems at home.
Other kids don't know how to treat other kids of their own race, or
if there is treatment required at all. There isn't a single
scene where one kid passes a note to another kid in the class whom
he/she "likes." The teacher commiserates with other teachers,
and in a couple of scenes, teachers openly express frustration with
the motivation of the youths in their respective classes.
There is a ton of stuff in "The Class", and
you will be shocked how cliché-free the film is...you half expect
there to be at least one scene where a gang of the students bully up
somebody else, or someone has an uncomfortable "I Don't Know WHAT a
Condom Is!" sequence with the school nurse, or if Coolio is going to
show up to break up "Gangsta's Paradise." There's no campaign
for class president or cheerleaders or jocks or kids sexting during
class (although, cell phones do make an appearance).
Nope..."The Class" is purely about the stuff in the classroom, and I
was amazed at how much mileage the movie got out of its young
un-actor-filled cast and the still-surprising decision that the
director made to cast the book's author in the movie as the teacher.
I mean, it all works, and it won the best film award at the Cannes
Film Festival last year (even IF there was a bit of a hometown lean
on that one, eh?).
Even though this is required material for
anyone working within the walls of any school anywhere (past or
present), I really thought "The Class" was excellent and told a very
well-layered story of what it might be like to teach kids in this
day and age. Tasty!
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard