Friday, June 24, 2016

French movie Friday: L'ecole pour tous

I'm beginning to think that foreign movies starring children are likely to be a good bet. Evidence: the French gems La Guerre des Boutons and Les Choristes, and the chilling German Nackt unter Wolfen (shudder). Far from being annoying or precocious, the kids somehow sparkled so effortlessly that it left me reeling. 

L'ecole pour tous then is another example. The protagonist, a petty criminal named Jahwad, somehow ends up impersonating a middle-school teacher of French literature. The class he is assigned to is known as the 'dregs' of academia. Even the real teacher would have his job cut out for him. As expected, Jahwad plunges in right up to his eyes, fumbling frantically. Incredibly, the original teacher, the hapless real Jean-Christophe Despalin, helps him along. 

Jahwad's daft friend Yasin, his accomplice in their petty crookery, hangs around trying to understand Jahwad's gig but never does. And there are the other teachers at the school, a decently hilarious bunch especially the lady with the voice like a Sergeant at boot camp. 

Finally, the kids themselves. Oh what an absurd bunch they are! Engaging in what would be considered way-over-the-top banter in my home country, they somehow manage to convey the essential innocence of the very young under their layers of disgruntled, disruptive mob mentality. Scratch that, these kids would not exist in India. Or they would simply be put in jail. For life. But this is French cinema after all. I've come to expect a certain lighthearted absurdity with a vast acceptance of every possible stripe of humanity, and this I got.

The lead (Arie Elmaleh) carries off physical comedy with a feather touch, an able if frail foil to the robust tomfoolery of the teenagers. You feel for the teachers for sure, but I found myself rooting for the rambunctious 8th-graders here. And that's quite a feat for a mere movie to achieve, he he he. 

Director: Eric Rochant
Overall rating: 7/10

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your list of foreign films is compelling...even the ones you mention in passing. Very compelling...what's funny is your reviews make me want to watch each and every movie, even if your review is not all that complimentary!

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