Combustible Celluloid
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With: François Bégaudeau, Wei Huang, Esméralda Ouertani, Franck Keïta, Nassim Amrabt, Laura Baquela, Cherif Bounaïdja Rachedi, Juliette Demaille, Dalla Doucoure, Arthur Fogel, Damien Gomes
Written by: François Bégaudeau, Robin Campillo, Laurent Cantet, based on a book by François Bégaudeau
Directed by: Laurent Cantet
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 128
Date: 05/24/2008

The Class (2008)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Teacher's Dirty Looks

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This new film by Laurent Cantet (Human Resources, Time Out) won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and though it plays up its own social relevance, it actually works something like an uncomfortably realistic docudrama (Frederick Wiseman's High School comes to mind). François Bégaudeau plays a junior high teacher in a French school just outside the beaten path of Paris. His students consist of all shapes and races, some gifted, some troubled. The major incident comes when two student representatives attend a faculty meeting and report sensitive information to one of their fellow students, and a frustrated Fran�ois accidentally lets fly a verbal insult in class. Other than that, we overhear many class discussions, some of which enlighten and some of which end in arguing. We also hear behind-the-scenes faculty gatherings and exchanges, including a few breakdowns ("I can't take it anymore!"). The film has a lot to say about social boundaries and whatnot, but the reason it succeeds is this astonishingly organic, fly-on-the-way approach, which seems close to improvisation, but with a specific structure (it comes from Bégaudeau's book).

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