I have seen several of Laurent Cantet's films - Human Resources about a father and son set against the backdrop of a 35 hour work week, L'emploi du temps - Time Out about an unemployed man and Vers le sud - Heading South about white women who go to the Haiti to pick up young black men. Cantets latest film The Class was the favorite at last year's Cannes film festival. Based on a book by Francois Begaudeau, it is the story of a young teacher's experiences in a multiethnic school.
With the recent problems in the suburbs of Paris, when Nicolas Sarkozy told young people they were bums before he was elected, I found myself indifferent to the teachers in this film about a classroom in Paris - all white - in a multiracial school and felt that most of the students needed more mirroring then was accorded them There are other films that treat this subject. Jody Foster endorsed the film Hate directed by Mathieu Kassovits about the feelings of ostracization multiethnic kids feel in the Parisian suburbs and though it is a fiction film as opposed to the documentary style of the class it still feel more realistic.
Francois Marin tries to be good teacher to his class. One becomes endeared to the students, such as a girl of Arabic descent who wants to be a cop who Francois on using the name Bill et al and that he never mirrors the names of kids from multiethnic backgrounds. it is unclear if the film is self-reflective or preachy. Going south like The Class cut across gender and racial lines. Francois calls two of the girls who sit on the school council "skanks", one displaying poor taste, personally selfish behavior and low class- most often sexual conduct. The reason - is because they eat biscuits and laugh during the council. Another student Soumaylene defends the girls being called skanks - and triggers an outburst in class and personal consequences for Francois. It seems out of touch to impose class culture such as the French Classics on kids who need exposure to life --but they all have examples of culture from their own ethnicities. Soumaylene is expelled for reacting to the girls. This seemingly harmless lies at the center of the film and its many tensions, making it a problematic film but one certainly revealing Of the modern realities of schools in Paris.
For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan
© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 2/09
France - 2008