The Films of Laurent Cantet
The Class (January 2/14)
It's inevitably clear that The Class is the sort of film that one admires more than one enjoys, as the film, which details a year in the life of a teacher (François Bégaudeau's François) and his students, just doesn't possess any attributes designed to capture and sustain the viewer's interest for more than a few minutes at a time. Filmmaker Laurent Cantet has infused the proceedings with a documentary-like feel that is, at the outset, certainly quite promising; working from a script based on Bégaudeau's true-life experiences as a teacher, Cantet does a superb job of establishing (and maintaining) an atmosphere of intense realism - with the authentic vibe perpetuated by Bégaudeau's stirring turn as the movie's central figure. The movie's watchable vibe is slowly-but-surely diminished by Cantet's emphasis on the minutia of François' day-to-day exploits, however, as the viewer does, to an increasingly distressing degree, feel as though they're trapped in that classroom along with the various characters. (It doesn't help, either, that Cantet offers up a series of rather underwhelming sequences detailing François' ongoing encounters with the institution's higher-ups.) And although the movie has been peppered with a handful of engrossing interludes - eg François' loses his cool and calls two female students "skanks" - The Class ultimately suffers from a pervasive lack of context or character development (ie François remains a blank slate from start to finish) and it is, as a result, impossible to work up any real enthusiasm for (or rooting interest in) the protagonist's endeavors.