ENTRE LES MURS (COMP.)

(BY ALI NADERZAD) A genre that is becoming more popular is the docudrama. Remember 2006’s “Chalk”? French filmmaker Laurent Cantet sets his film Entre Les Murs (between the walls) in a Parisian high-school considered difficult to manage. Told from the point of view of the faculty, Entre Les Murs follows one teacher, Francois, as he fills in as parent, educator and disciplinarian with varying degrees of success. Cantet not only understands this film genre but he expands and betters it. Some will ask, why label genres and yet others will admit their distaste for docudramas as Walter Salles did last week during a press conference. The fact is that docudramas open a new realm of possibilities for filmmaking. The material is timely–you’re pulled into the story almost immediately. The challenge or filmmakers is to keep you there and Cantet is quite good at this. This group of students exhibits all the features of the average student who hails from tough neighborhoods: cantankerous and overconfident. How can the teacher navigate these troubled waters, Cantet asks us? Unlike in the film chalk, where a teacher appeared pitiable and overwhelmed by his students, Francois is more tenacious and seems always game for a bantering session with his students. And while he appears to be a taut disciplinarian, this aspect seems to be more the realm of the school principal, a bureaucrat who’s always in control of his house. Thankfully for us film critics, Francois is not the one-dimensional character from Chalk. He can be tough with his students at times, and at others finds it difficult to reconcile himself with the possibility of a student being expulsed following an incident in his classroom. At 130 minutes and scheduled for this morning’s 8:30 am slot Entre Les Murs can be a difficult film to watch and yet Cantet’s cameras are non-obtrusive, allowing the viewer to become more engrossed in the students and Francois’ plight as time passes. Although this film might not win anything at Cannes, the type of issues with the educational system it illuminates (an issue which will have devastating consequences on society when school-aged children enter the workforce) haven’t received this level exposure in a long while, and we should be very grateful for it. With this latest opus, Cantet seems to tell us, teachers do a lot but their ability to control students isn’t limitless. It’s time for parents to once again take responsibility for raising children.

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