American classroom dramas have always skewed toward the schmaltzy and clichéd — which makes the French import The Class (in theaters 12/19) seem all the more remarkable: It never gets tripped up by its own good intentions.
Director Laurent Cantet worked from a memoir by François Bégaudeau (a schoolteacher who appears in the film as a fictionalized version of himself) and focused closely on multiracial students in a working-class arrondissement in Paris. The results are steely-eyed, muscular, and moving enough to have won The Class the Palme D’or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival (it was the first time in 20 years that a French film took top honors). Our own filmmakers would do well to sit up straight and pay attention.
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