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Movie Review: The Class (Entre les Murs)

Alternate Title: To Sir, With Sass

Story: There has been a spate of films about teachers. The Class continues that tradition with a twist. The author of the novel “Entre les Murs” (“Between the Walls”), François Bégaudeau, also stars in the film, as himself. It was directed by Laurent Cantet and written (in French, with English subtitles) by Mr. Cantet, François Bégaudeau and Robin Campillo.

To its credit, the movie has a documentary feel. The teacher, Mr. Marin, is in charge of teaching French to the 13 and 14 year olds as they giggle, squirm, argue, lash out and recoil on cue. The Class is filled with a diverse group of kids and reminded me of a New York City classroom. France, unlike the US, does not embrace a multi-cultural heritage. The mission of its education system is to form a singular cultural identity - as French people. The differences in culture in this classroom, are at the heart of the story.

The movie does not break any new ground. The story takes a long time to begin and it is well into the second hour before any real confrontation ensues. Yes, the film is engaging and the students are real, but I left the theater saying, 'so what?'

Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hy158dWdbpw

How times have changed since 1967's To Sir, With Love: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aSFoY3W3NM

Acting: François Bégaudeau as Mr. Marin, did a fine job as did all of the 'real' students including, Wei Huang (Wei), Esméralda Ouertani (Sandra) and Franck Keïta (Souleymane).

Trivia: Laurent Cantet's film, "Entre les murs" (The Class) picked up the award for best picture at France's Lumiere Awards. "Entre les murs" also won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

Predilection: I like to see all Oscar contenders if possible. This movie has been nominated for Best Foreign Film.

Critters: None

Food: Champagne

Sex Spectrum: No sex, but there is lots of tittering about sex. They are Junior High School kids, after all.

Soundtrack: None

Visual Art: The film takes place almost entirely in the school. Very little if anything on the walls.

Theater Audience: Fairly crowded for an early Monday show. Probably filled with people who also like to see all of the nominated films or are entering an Oscar pool.

Squirm Scale: 0

Drift Factor: I looked at my watch very often after the first hour.

Predictability Level: High

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Apparently so - since it was nominated. I think there were many more French films this year that were better and should have been given the nod instead.

Big Screen or Rental: Rental would be fine. If you are going in the Teacher Genre there is a whole lot to choose from including: The Blackboard Jungle,
Coach Carter, Conrack, The Corn is Green, Dangerous Minds, Dead Poets Society, The Emperor’s Club, Finding Forrester, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Lean On Me, Mona Lisa Smile, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Music of the Heart, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Renaissance Man, School of Rock, Stand and Deliver, To Sir, With Love and Up the Down Staircase

Length: Too long at over two hours.