The Class

Compare Laurent Cantet’s terrific The Class with Mr. Holland’s Opus and Dangerous Minds. Note the structural similarities: misbehaving students, a charismatic educator who wants them to succeed, and big thoughts about the classroom as urban microcosm. Discuss the difference between Hollywood’s triumphal individualism and Cantet’s delicate examination of what counts as success — and failure — in a corner of the global village. François, a junior-high-school teacher in a moderately high-risk area of Paris (played by François Bégaudeau, a teacher who, with Cantet and Robin Campillo, adapted The Class from his own novel), uses language as a kind of dance that suits the scattered attention spans and compulsive backtalk of the multicultural grab bag that is his class. Cantet, who also made the extraordinary Time Out, builds thickly detailed experiential worlds through which he slowly leaks the pressing problems of our age — in this case the changing meaning of education in a heavily immigrant environment where a unifying culture has all but broken down.

Categories: Movies