2 hours, 8 minutes
PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.
Making-of featurette; Commentary on select scenes
|This exhilerating French film is an adaptation of Francois Begaudeau's 2006 novel documenting a year in the life of a multicultural French classroom in the suburbs of Paris. Director Laurent Cantet ("Human Resources") used Begaudeau himself to play the teacher Francois Marin, a handsome, charismatic
thirtysomething whose playful, bristling approach, complete with sardonic
humor and often
genuine exasperation seems to be the perfect way of dealing with a
classroom of often unruly and inattentive teenage students.
While the class has its share of well-behaved pupils like Asian immigrant Wei (Wei Huang), who
speaks assuredly despite his less-than-perfect French, it's the
troublemakers who leave the most vivid impression. And there are plenty of them including Esmeralda (Esmeralda Ouertani), with her impudent
tone; moody Khoumba (Rachel
Regulier), who comes to resent what she perceives as Francois' grudge
against her; and, most volatile of all, rebellious Souleymane (Franck
Keita), the angry son of Malian immigrants who seems unable, or unwilling, to connect to anyone around him.
The film reaches its
climax when Marin's job is threatened by some heated remarks he made to
some of his female students, and the faculty must decide whether Souleymane
can stay in school, but there's no kind of false
conclusion or melodrama as in so many of Hollywood dramas with similar themes. The message in the end is that there is no
message; people do their best, win some and lose some, and
after a summer break, it starts all over again. Though The Class tackles some specifically French ideas of race and identity and education, this is a universal story with intelligent insights into life in today's classrooms.