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Class, The (DVD Review)

6 Aug, 2009 By: Billy Gil


Street 8/11/09
Sony Pictures
Box Office $3.8 million
$28.96 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for language.
In French with English subtitles.

Director Laurent Cantet’s The Class (Entre les murs) is a brilliant and often uncomfortably close look into the struggles of both teachers and students to coexist.

François Bégaudeau is a young, affable Parisian middle-school teacher instructing his students in the ways of language. His students are outspoken and don’t seem as interested in learning as they are in getting Bégaudeau off topic onto tangents that are by turn intriguing and banal, and sometimes even inappropriate.

Bégaudeau acts as naturally as one can in a classroom full of teenagers from a rough suburb, which is to say the film’s forays into discomfort are entirely appropriate in the realm of this classroom. What the film mostly doesn’t feel like is a film at all; that’s because Bégaudeau is playing a version of himself, since he also wrote the book, based on his own experiences, upon which this docudrama is based.

Confusing? Only on paper. The Class is a masterful exercise in realism, a throwback to Italian neorealists of the 1940s and 1950s, to classic films such as The Bicycle Thief that used real people, rather than actors, to portray real things happening in the present. The film is a direct representation of its subjects, as students in the film are actual students, using their real names, who created characters to play, as a special feature on the Blu-ray shows.
The film itself plays perfectly without viewers having to keep track of what’s real and what isn’t. It’s a wonder to witness these tiny dramas, such as a student accidentally hitting another in class or Bégaudeau accidentally calling a student a slut, and how both Bégaudeau and his students react.

Everyone, from current teachers to former students, will be able to relate to this unique film.

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