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The Class (Entre les murs) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 21, 2009 by  



“Incredibly real, believable and overall, provocative.  Definitely rare type of film featuring real-life students, sharing their real life persona through improvisation.  Definitely recommended!”

Images courtesy of © 2008 Haut et Court and France 2 Cinema. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Class (Entre les murs)

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2008

DURATION: 130 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), French, English Dolby TrueHD 3.0, Spanish LCR (Discrete Surround), Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, English SDH

COMPANY:  Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG

Release Date: August 11, 2009

Directed by Laurent Cantet

Based on a book by Francois Begaudeau

Written by Francois Begaudeau

Produced by  Caroline Benjo, Carol Scotta

Director of Photography: Pierre Milon

Edited by Robin Campillo

Starring:

Francois Begaudeau as Francois Marin

Agame Malembo-Emene as Agame

Angelica Sancio as Angelica

Arthur Fogel as Arthur

Boubacar Toure as Boubacar

Burak Ozyilmaz as Burak

Carl Nanor as Carl

Cherif Bounaidja Rachedi as Cherif

Dalla Doucoure as Dalla

Damien Gomes as Damien

Esmerelda Ouertani as Esmerelda

Eva Paridso as Eva

Rachel Reguilier as Khoumba

Juliette Demaille as Juliette

Henriette Kasaruhanda as Henriette

Laura Baquela as Laura

Louise Grinberg as Louise

Lucie Landrevie as Lucie

Franck Keita as Souleymane

Rabah Nait Oufella as Rabah

Samantha Soupirot as Samantha

Nassim Ambrabt as Nassim

Qifei Huang as Qifei

Wei Huang as Wei

At a tough inner-city middle school in Paris, a dedicated teacher named Mr. Marin (Francois Begaudeau) begins the new term.  Taking on a class comprised of a melting pot of modern-day French society, he pushes and prods his pupils while striving to gain their respect.  And as each side challenges the other over issues both academic and personal, Mr. Marin and his students are about to get an education they’ll never forget.  The winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, THE CLASS is both powerful and provocative, “an artful, intelligent movie” (Manohla Dargis, The New York Times) based on Begaudeau’s best-selling autobiographical novel.

The Class (Entre les murs) was the big surprise at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, winning the Palme D’or, the film surprised many people due to the way it was filmed.  Almost like watching a real documentary but a film based on real situations that teachers and students face.

The film is based on the book by Francois Begeaudeau (who writes the screenplay and stars as the main teacher – Francois Marin) and is directed by Laurent Cantet (“Vers ke sud” , “L’emploi du temps” and “Ressources humaines”).  To keep with the realness of today’s children, the film brought in real students who took part in an acting school in which they learned improvisation but had a chance to be part of an actual film.

If anything, the film give the viewer a chance to see how the French education system is and the challenges that teachers and students face.  For one, the students are becoming more multicultural and in this film, children who have parents from China, Mali, Morocco and other countries form a melting pot in their classroom but it’s not exactly smooth sailing.

The teachers who do all they can to reach their students and earn their respect but also knowing to cross the line as educator and a normal adult, especially when challenged.

The film revolves around Mr. Francois Marin, a teacher in Paris that teaches French at Dolton High School.  He’s a caring teacher for a young group of 13-14 year old students and really wants to know more about them but also to educate them but knowing that today’s students are not the same as when he was in school.  In fact, for some of these students, they see things differently than students in the past.

In one scene, Marin uses a typical name of “Bill” to describe a story in class but his students take offense to that.  The class which is multicultural question why he uses the name of “Bill” when he could use a name that is not so “white” such as Aissata or Fatou.

The film also gives us a glance of how students view being in France but also being true to their own heritage.  In one scene, the students get into a heated discussion about soccer and how one student who they call Caribbean supports the French and calls himself a France while other Black students disagree and are upset that he as looked at himself as a French and not of his country.

The same could go for a student named Wei who is Chinese who lives in France but doesn’t agree with French culture and thus he has closed himself off and plays video games and stays home because he doesn’t identify himself as one of the French.

Another scene deals with major challenges for educators especially  for students who become too much of a problem.   Would expelling do the student any good.  Teachers who have to face difficult decisions.  Especially knowing that these students can be sent back to their original country where education is much worse and life would be even more difficult.

A few of the students play a major role in the film such as:

Esmerelda – The student who tends to be mouthy and talks a lot in class and is not afraid to speak her mind about things.

Khouma – A friend of Esmerelda and a problem student for Dr. Marin who is shocked to that she was such a smart teenager the year before but all of a sudden, she has become his most difficult and challenges him in front of everyone in class.

Boubacar – An opinionated student who tends to get in the middle of arguments/debates but is quite bright.

Wei – The Chinese student who doesn’t identify himself as a typical French and is often criticized by his classmates.

Souleymane – The student who never does his homework, doesn’t bring things to class and is often the student who gets in trouble quite a bit.  But despite his bad habits, Dr. Marin wants him to achieve and reach his potential.  Marin tries to give him chances despite his fellow educators not having the same belief.

There are just a few of the teenagers in Mr. Marin’s class but its the class as a whole.  How these children are expected to give respect but yet feel the education system is not giving them any respect and with changing times, how school for today’s teachers and students are not the same as things were 10 or more years ago.

“The Class” is very real and the fact that the students play their characters to the best perfection in this improvised experimentation or project for this film, the results are just wonderful!

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Class” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with an aspect ratio of 2:35:1).  It’s important to let people know that this is not the type of film you are exactly looking for picture quality.  The majority of the film is shot inside a classroom, outside the classroom and in the teacher’s lounge.  For the most part, the film looks clean and very good on Blu-ray.

The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 3.0.   For the most part, the film is dialogue based.  All front channel and center channel speaker utilization and really this film has no need to utilize any major sound effects that would need the surround channels thus only a 3.0 lossless soundtrack.

But there are some scenes such as the students playing soccer outdoors or the noise in a classroom that could have utilized surround or rear surrounds but again, I don’t think this film really needed it.

I watched the film primarily in French but the film is also presented with an English Dolby TrueHD 3.0 dub.  For the most part, the dub work was just a bit hard to watch, especially knowing the mannerisms of the students and how they really sound like.

Part of the realism of “The Class” is that the class showcases a multicultural group of students.  Even though they speak French, you hear part of their culture through their voices.  For the English dub, everyone sounds quite American with similar voices with some talking normal and some talking all street.  The English dub just didn’t work for me but for those who can’t stand reading subtitles, then this audio option is available for you.

The film is also presented in Spanish LCR (Discrete Surround) and as for subtitles, the film is presented with English, English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Class” features the following special features:

  • Audio and Video Scene Commentaries with Director Laurent Cantet and Writer/ACtor Francois Begaudeau – Three scenes with commentary: “The Imperfect of the Subjunctine” (15:12), “The Courtyard Dispute” (8:28) and “The Disiplinary Board” (15:55).  Both Cantet discussing what they enjoyed about the scene and what they wanted to accomplish.
  • Making of The Class – (41:43) A very informative behind-the-scenes of the making of “The Class”.  From how the film was shot at Francoise Dolto High School and to achieve the realism, the filmmakers had organized improv workshops in which 40 students came to the workshop every Wednesday and were taught by Francois Begaudeau and how they took part in this project which became “The Class”.  Also, the film being premiered in Paris and then the 2008 Cannes Film Festival with the crew and all young actors taking part of the event to the winning of the Palme D’or.
  • Actors’ Workshop – (30:05) Exclusive to the Blu-ray release of this film, we get to see an actual workshop and how the Director, the teacher and the children work around certain stories and become their character.  How the director and Francois Begaudeau were able to get the children to be natural and some who were almost like their characters.
  • Actors’ Self-Portraits – (12:03)  An exclusive for this Blu-ray version of the film. The young students of the film do their “self-portrait” (like their student counterparts had to do in the film) and talk about themselves, their likes and dislikes.  What I found quite interesting is how the students are almost like their film counterparts and gives you an idea of the kind of realism that everyone brought to the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:24) The original theatrical trailer for the film.
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases.
  • BD-Live – The film is BD-Live enabled.

“The Class” was definitely a unique film experience.  A film that is filmed unlike any other film and utilizing real-life students acting the way they are in class but yet improvising in order to create a film.

Personally, I can see how challenging this film must have been but most of all capturing the nuances of today’s classroom between teacher and students.  How the different cultures bring something different into the classroom and things have changed.  I can see how all these students can be seen as students in a French school but for these students, many don’t identify with the French system and where teachers expect the respect from their students, these students want the same type of respect and in doing so, act out their grievances right on the spot.

Back then, if we had something bad to say, we talked about after class with other students but these students are not afraid to be vocal to their teachers.  Asking them straight out if they are homosexual, challenging them on why they are teaching things a way of proper speaking when people around them do not talk that way.  And it’s no longer one or two people, the whole class joins in the debate and let out their emotion.

With that being said, that is what makes “The Class” so significant.  The film captures the real atmosphere of children today and how things are in their classroom.   This is not a film that is dramatic, suspenseful or mysterious.  It’s a straightforward film of a teacher and his fellow teachers dealing with today’s students.  And how today’s students are.  In a way, it’s almost documentary-like but it’s not.

Because of that, this film is not going to be for everyone.  It’s an award winning film and  is appreciated for its filmmaking and realness but for those expecting a deeper storyline or something along the lines of a Hollywood film about teachers trying to help inner-city students and achieving the impossible by sacrifice, this film is nothing like that.

In fact, I wished the film would have pursued certain stories brought up of several students.  For example, with the student of Wei, his mother is an illegal citizen and is being deported.  The teachers are upset about how a good student like Wei must face this challenge but yet Wei is hardly shown in the film to show any emotional distraught over his mother’s predicament, nor do we see anything else come out of it.

Granted, the character of Wei was not among the major students being featured in the film but there are other storylines that feature children who have challenging situations and I suppose like real-life, the film wants us to see how these teachers behave when things happen but yet, this is not a Hollywood film where there are many happy endings.  This film captures the true nature of a how things are in school, things happen… life goes on for both the educators and their students and next thing you know, a whole new school year with new students.

As for the Blu-ray, the Blu-ray release is impressive in that it shows us the behind-the-scenes of how this was all accomplished and what was accomplished in my mind was quite magnificent.  There are two Blu-ray exclusive features and these two additional features definitely gives us a very good behind-the-scenes look of how this film was made but again, how these students are like their student counterparts.  They may be improvising but they bring a lot of their real-life persona to their characters.

Again, this film is not for everyone.  But for those who want a different kind of film and are open to learning about real-life situations that is happening in France but also many other countries through its education system, this film may be an eye opener for some and for those who with open minds can find something quite enjoyable with “The Class”.  Again, it’s almost like a documentary, so because it’s an award-winner, it’s important to let people know that this not your typical film.

Nevertheless, “The Class” is film on Blu-ray that I definitely recommend!

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