The Class / Entre les murs (2008) ****
I’m a little surprised Laurent Cantet’s 2008 Palme d’Or winner is just now coming to DVD, but then it lingered in theaters for nearly 6 months on the way to around $3.76 million at the US box office thanks to its Foreign Language Oscar nomination. That’s not too shabby for a film with subtitles, particularly one that doesn’t have a crowd-pleasing hook.
Instead of being plot heavy, The Class is an almost documentary-like look at a year in the life of a class of multi-racial Parisian high school students and their well-meaning teacher. The remarkable thing about it is the sense of realism and immediacy achieved by plopping a camera into the middle of the chaos and letting the story threads unfold. The performances by the teens don’t feel like performances at all. They either do a terrific job of improvisation, or an even better job of simply making it feel that way.
Though it doesn’t quite live up to expectations as a Palme d’Or winner, The Class is definitely better than Depatures, the film that beat it for the Oscar.