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Okuome1  (Level: 33.0 - Posts: 89)
Sat, 24th May '08 3:54 AM


Just read this review, thought of you sploofers particularly

A Teacher’s Tale

By now the stalls in the Cannes Market — a hive of global movie commerce in the bowels of the Palais des Festivals — have been dismantled, and most of the buyers and sellers have gone home, having by all reports conducted less business than in previous years. As the festival straggles toward its climax on Sunday evening, when a jury headed by Sean Penn will hand out prizes, a subdued, slightly downcast feeling is settling over the city.

The widely shared opinion among critics seems to be that this wasn’t such a great year. But such snap judgments can be deceptive. A film festival is by nature ephemeral, but good movies have a way of sticking around. And after enduring a few bad ones in the past few days — why the Italian director Paolo Sorrentino keeps being invited back to Cannes is nearly as incomprehensible as “Il Divo,” his latest offering — I was happy to discover Laurent Cantet’s competition entry, “Entre les Murs.”

The film, Mr. Cantet’s fourth feature, concerns a young teacher dealing with a tough class in an urban high school. It’s hardly a new idea for a movie — from “To Sir With Love” to “Dangerous Minds” and beyond, Hollywood has always had a soft spot for melodramas of pedagogical heroism — but Mr. Cantet attacks it with freshness and precision, and without a trace of sentimentality.

The teacher, François (played by François Begaudeau, himself a teacher and the author of the book on which the film is based), is devoted and hard-working but hardly a hero. He is capable of losing his cool and lashing out at his students. More frequently he resorts to sarcasm, partly to parry their provocations and partly, one suspects, to protect himself from his emotional investment in them. Not that he would admit to any such feelings. François is a professional, doing a difficult job with the seriousness and alacrity it demands.

True to its title, which means “between the walls,” “Entre les Murs” never leaves the school building. We learn nothing of François’s private life and only bits and pieces about the backgrounds of his pupils, whose faces reflect the multicultural makeup of French society today. His interactions with them generate moments of hilarity (including a raucous discussion of the imperfect subjunctive, a point of French grammar that has caused untold misery in French classes around the world) and also painful collisions and misunderstandings.

Mr. Cantet has long been interested in exploring the varieties of work in modern Europe. “Human Resources” (1999) was about changing relationships between management and labor in the industrial sector, and “Time Out” (2001) examined the alienation of the corporate managerial class.

To describe those films in such terms and to suggest that “Entre les Murs” extends their themes by focusing on a man who labors in the service of the state makes them sound drier and more schematic than they are. But Mr. Cantet is motivated above all by a passionate curiosity about the way people live, and he directs with such sensitivity and skill that his curiosity becomes contagious. It is not enough to call him a realist, though he is surely at the forefront of the current wave of realism in European cinema. It’s simpler to say that his movies tell the truth.

Jank0614  (Level: 67.1 - Posts: 4593)
Sat, 24th May '08 8:58 AM

Thanks for sharing. I'll have to Netflix it when the day comes.

The present day choral director at Grapevine HS once told me that teaching middle school/junior high is just the hardest - early teens' brains are firing up wildly and students bounce unpredictably between loving their friends, parents, and teachers and hating us all to the point of mob insurrection.

He said teachers of this age group have to practically set ourselves on fire every day to keep their attention, keep them interested and learning and moving forward, as they just don't have the ability yet to keep themselves off the boredom/misery wall.

Last week, I was driving home and couldn't get there by my regular route because on the overpass I drive under, a teen guy was standing on the edge, shirtless, looking miserable. Underneath was a circle of policecars and firetrucks. He had already thrown his shoes to the street below.

Because of the laws for minors, we can never know his name or his story. I did get one of our district officers to confirm that they were finally able to talk him down without him getting injured.

But day to day, I look out over my students and listen to their very loud conversations in the hall (words of anger, bliss and angst-filled extreme emotions) and could list probably 5 who I fear on any given day easily could do the same thing. And I don't mean the same 5 every day - they pass the craziness around.

Everything in their world moves so quickly to keep their attention. Have you ever watched an action movie and counted how many seconds for each camera shot before they change? It ranges from 2 to 5 seconds almost throughout the movie. No one in history grew up with their brain exposed to such visual, audial, sensory attack.

Yet, kids are expected to sit for 50-ish minutes in one chair and keep focus on one person who can't change the camera shot. Who isn't beautiful with a hair and makeup artist checking every few minutes. Who isn't jumping around the room in physical endeavors.

They're a tough room.

Suzer22  (Level: 166.3 - Posts: 1982)
Sat, 24th May '08 9:15 AM

Thanks for sharing that - I am so perversely drawn to movies like that!

As I just had my last day yesterday I am feeling really good about my students today! For all the hellions there are, those one or two who actually LEARN something and let you know it...those are the ones I do it for

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