Movie #27: The Class

I’m not sure what to say about The Class. It won the Palme d’Or prize for Best Picture at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, but I really didn’t like it — or more accurately, I didn’t enjoy watching it. Francois Begaudeau stars as M. Morin, a French teacher at an ethnically-diverse school in Paris. The film depicts events and individuals in that environment, focusing on Morin’s class in a mundane, documentary way. At first I kept waiting for an event to trigger the plot to kick into gear: something like charges of harassment or one of the students going through a crisis. We’ve all seen “teacher” films before and somehow we need to feel inspired that the teacher is making a big difference in these kids’ tough lives. Instead, that never happens. M. Morin has the best of intentions, but often doesn’t handle himself well when he loses control of the class — which is often. Kids are unruly and talk back; they are disengaged, insolent, and don’t seem to care. I’m sure that probably reflects kids the real world — in fact, the students are all not played by actors, but kids who have improvised realistic scenes. If there is such a thing as a plot to this movie, it culminates in a disciplinary hearing for one of the students. Oddly, it’s not really a climax. After it’s over, things go back to normal and nothing much has changed. As much as I hated scenes with the class acting up, I really enjoyed the scenes where the faculty discussed various issues. The realism and naturalism made them very interesting. I am amazed that this movie won the top prize at Cannes because it seems like you could just film a real classroom for a year and get a similar movie. I don’t see the artistry. I guess the Cannes jury must know something that I don’t. (3 out of 5)

27 down, 23 to go!

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