The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Features  |  Reviews

Review: The Class

Learning curve, part II
By GERALD PEARY  |  February 4, 2009
3.5 3.5 Stars

VIDEO: The trailer for The Class [Entre les murs]

The Class | Directed by Laurent Cantet | Written by François Bégaudeau, from his own book | With Bégaudeau | Sony Pictures Classics | French | 128 minutes

Review: Wild Child. By Gerald Peary.

There’s an analogous reserve in the teaching methodology of François Bégaudeau in The Class to those of Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard in François Truffaut’s 1970 classic, The Wild Child [L’enfant sauvage]. He’s in his fourth year as a French-language instructor of 13- and 14-year-olds, many of them immigrants, in a scraping-by public school in Paris. Bégaudeau is enormously casual and informal in his dealings with his students. Anything can be talked about in class, from soccer to homosexuality, and he’s a straight shooter, always truthful with his kids. But though he’s a liberal nice guy on the side of his minions, he rarely praises them in an overt manner. In line with the pedantry of Dr. Itard, his students — some raw and unsocialized — are asked to find their own way. Bégaudeau is not the man to take a child aside and say, “I’m really enjoying having you in my class.” His way is to banter with his pupils, to challenge what they assert, and often in an ironic, sarcastic manner. (Is it correct to note that brooding, self-dramatizing teenagers don’t appreciate irony and sarcasm?)

Bégaudeau is a real-life teacher who penned a memoir, Entre les murs (the film’s original French title), about his time in the classroom. In The Class, he superbly plays himself, and all the students, equally adept as “actors,” use their real names. The film is nominally fiction, based on lengthy improvisations with the cast, and shot in an empty school during the summer. Yet it feels so “real,” its fluid camera style like a cinéma-vérité. The Class has been compared, aptly, to Frederick Wiseman’s documentaries about institutions. Like Wiseman, Cantet captures the most telling, “truthful” moments. His classroom comes vividly, beautifully alive: this is what school is all about! And like Wiseman, he doesn’t tell us what to think.

Is Bégaudeau the best teacher who ever lived? Is he in the wrong profession? Or is he something in between, a flawed instructor with good days and bad, like his moody students? You, the filmmaking audience, get to decide.

Related: Review: The Country Teacher, The New Alibis | Hard Promises, Various Artists | Panama! 3, More more >
  Topics: Reviews , Entertainment, Hip-Hop and Rap, Music,  More more >
| More
Add Comment
HTML Prohibited

 Friends' Activity   Popular   Most Viewed 
[ 10/15 ]   "22nd Drawing Show: Residue"  @ Mills Gallery at Boston Center for the Arts
[ 10/15 ]   Or,  @ Lyric Stage Company of Boston
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   REVIEW: WEEKEND  |  October 11, 2011
    This appealing gay-themed drama, written and directed with intelligence by Andrew Haigh, is a British cousin to the American mumblecore movement, as two twentysomething guys meet, have sex, talk, have more sex, have much more chat, and get closer and closer over a long weekend.
    We've all had that irritating waitress who, asked what she'd suggest on the menu, answers cheerily, "Everything is great!" Thanks for the help — and what credibility!
  •   REVIEW: THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967-1975  |  September 27, 2011
    In the era when the Black Panther Party was its most powerful and off-the-pig-threatening and separatist, there was little interest in even conversing with whitey, unless whitey was from somewhere other than the ultra-racist USA.
  •   REVIEW: HAPPY, HAPPY  |  September 20, 2011
    First time filmmaker Anne Sewitsky finds a compassionate way to tell a familiar tale of adultery, and she's helped immeasurably by a first-rate acting ensemble, especially the two superlative actresses, whom you could imagine cast in films of the late Ingmar Bergman.
  •   REVIEW: LOVE, ETC.  |  July 26, 2011
    Jill Andresevic's simply photographed documentary springs from an equally simple premise: shoot a varied bunch of New Yorkers, young to aging, who are thinking hard about love or are involved in relationships, and see what happens to them over a few months.

 See all articles by: GERALD PEARY

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed