The tense environment of a tough inner-city school where cultures and attitudes often clash is revealed in this award-winning drama based on François Bégaudeau’s best-selling novel Between the Walls. Bégaudeau himself stars as an idealistic teacher of a class of unruly 15 year-olds, whose spiky independence present constant challenges to his sometimes unconventional teaching methods. Featuring an outstanding non-professional cast of real teachers and students, Laurent Cantet’s gripping and sharply observed film offers a microcosm of contemporary society and explores the difficult issues facing education today.
2008 – Certificate: 15 – French Film
Rating Details: Strong Language
7 out of 10
I worked from home today. Despite not having nearly enough space to do so, I quite enjoy it as it allows me to work in just my underpants (the pair I was wearing the day before of course) and indulge my anti-social tendencies by not going out or seeing anyone. Today I did have to speak to people on the phone a lot, but that’s not as bad as actually having to speak to anyone face-to-face. For my dinner tonight I had some weird concoction that included tinned tomatoes, rice and tofu. To further indulge my anti-social tendencies, I do most of my food shopping online. Last time, due to an apparent world shortage of cheap, brown rice, I was gifted by Waitrose with a bag of basmati rice with added wild rice; (for the same price as the cheap rubbish I’d ordered). I’ve never eaten wild rice before, mainly because it’s about a million pounds a bag. After eating it tonight, I was left wondering how many people are willing to spend twice as much on a bag of rice as they need to, simply because it’s got a few ‘black bits’ in it. Taste-wise it didn’t seem to add anything, but I guess if you’re stupid, vein and rich, you can pander to your rice fantasies whenever you like. Finally, to indulge my anti-social tendencies still further, my meal tonight included two whole garlic bulbs. That’s a lot of garlic; and this film is French.
This is a movie that’s looks very much like a documentary. It features the staff and pupils at an inner city school in Paris and focuses on one particular teacher and his class, over the course of a year. Most of the time is spent in the classroom, watching him teaching them. Yep, that’s pretty much it; for over two hours. The teenagers act like real teenagers; sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re bad. The teacher acts like a teacher; he gets some stuff right and some stuff wrong. Strangely, it’s all rather watchable, but I really have no idea why. Perhaps it’s the almost constant mental combat that’s going on in the classroom that makes it so absorbing? However, it has reminded me of just what a hard job teaching can be.
Music? There isn’t any. At all.
Recommended for teachers and school age teenagers. Game on!
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? This is a film about one man who thinks he can ‘make a difference’. He’s got no superpowers or cool gadgets, or a perfect physique. He does however do battle on a daily basis, with a horde of confrontational, argumentative and troubled teenagers. He’s a teacher. That’s badass.
From director Jean-Claude Brisseau (“Noce Blanche”) comes an immoral tale of two women who use their sexuality and beauty to climb through the dizzy heights of office politics. When the beautiful but naïve Sandrine meets the worldly stripper Nathalie they conspire to better themselves. Both gaining jobs in a Parisian bank, they set about using their wiles to gain promotion. Before long Sandrine has seduced her employer – the powerful owner of the bank, but it is his son who has his own secret agenda as both women fall hopelessly for him. Handsomely shot, this is one drama that positively relishes the sadistic pleasures of office politics.
2003 – Certificate: 18 – French
Rating Details: Strong sex and nudity
7 out of 10
For the past few months I’ve become increasingly convinced that as a species, humans are basically doomed; and doomed sooner rather than later, probably within my lifetime. Climate change; the ‘too big to fail’ power of large corporations; terrorism and the response to it; the pending failure of antibiotics; corrupt and inadequate politicians; greedy and inadequate big-business CEOs; the general failure of the global economy and the inaction of those that could do something about the system that led to it; the overuse of finite resources that are fast running out; an increasingly ineffective United Nations; too many old people who the rest of society can’t provide for; the power of the press; the dreadful behaviour of many banks; the exploitation of people in the developing world by western companies; national heroes turning out to be paedophiles; the police routinely bending the rules when it suits them; I’m sure there’s more. I just thought I’d share that. All those angry punk songs were right after all. Meanwhile, this movie provides an additional explanation for the collapse of the French economy.
“Lesbian sex, public masturbation, orgies and worse”, so said The Guardian about this film. Fortunately it’s French, so that’s okay then. A stripper and a bartender working in a seedy Parisian club, fed up with the world when they get the sack for refusing to have sex with some guy for their boss, decide to sleep their way to the top of a big bank instead. When they get there they find it’s run by a guy who’s irresistible to woman and holds orgies in his mansion; and is having a sexual relationship with his sister too. Where’s the News of the World when you actually need it? (Actually no, I’m glad it’s gone.) Now, I’d be the first to admit that I’m not that familiar with the workings of French banks so maybe they’re a bit different to here, but I can’t imagine a stripper and a barmaid, in a matter of months, working their way up from being new employees at RBS to becoming lovers to the two most senior staff in the organisation. And despite all the criticism of RBS, I have difficulty accepting Stephen Hester as being so irresistible to women that when he dumps his lovers, (of which there’d have been many), they’d have a habit of setting fire to themselves and this wouldn’t result in some sort of media ‘interest’. I’m pretty sure ‘Liverpool’s favourite newspaper’ would think that to be a story ‘in the public interest’, never mind the bank’s shareholders. So now I’ve established just how preposterous the plot of this film is, I can add that it’s actually a pretty good movie. The two lead actresses are excellent and the story, provided you can suspend your belief enough, (well I’d give it the rest of the day off to be on the safe side), flows really well. It gets going straight away with some ‘erotic dancing’ and doesn’t let up until the final showdown at Christophe’s mansion. (He’s the irresistible one by the way, even though his head is shaped exactly like an Action Man, with a personality to match.) All in all though, it’s a pretty depressing film, despite the lesbian sex; all played out on top of an overwrought classical soundtrack by Antonio Vivaldi and his mates. Office politics where I work isn’t nearly as exciting!
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Recommended for people who can deal with the plot, the ‘explicit bits’ and the vibe. So basically that’s the French I guess. It’s no good for uptight Brits I’m afraid, there’s just too much to get outraged about. (As a little side note, I deplore the use of generalisations in this way; 130 million people aren’t really going to fall into one of two groups, based on their nationality. But hell, it’s a cheap, clichéd comment based on nothing but prejudice and media spin, so what does it matter? When it comes down to it I’m as rubbish as the next guy.)
Top badass moment? When Nathalie takes Sandrine back to her flat for the first time, they decide to open a bottle of wine. Champagne of course. If that happened in the UK it would be a bottle of Tesco own label plonk with a screw lid; or a few tins of lager. It’s hard to argue that a touch of class isn’t badass.
Far be it for me to ever admit I have any sort of imperfections, but up until a few years ago I used to bite my nails. Then one day I realised I’d more or less stopped doing it. Weird isn’t it? I’ve no idea what made me stop, but there you go. One of life’s little mysteries. This isn’t really a film about biting fingernails, which is probably a positive thing as I can’t imagine it would be very entertaining if it was. It’s more about someone who’s ambitious at work, who over-stretches herself and as a result of an accident at a partly, starts to self-harm in increasingly extreme ways. I really wanted to feel sorry for Esther, the main character in this movie. After all, she clearly has some big issues she needs to deal with and I’m a nice, caring person; no, really I am. Trouble is, she was basically a selfish bitch and I got the feeling she always had been. Decent job, caring boyfriend, intelligent, but still managing to be a bitch to everyone, but in that sneaky way only the clever ones can be. She also uses these same ‘skills’ to hide her new ‘hobby’ from those around her, or at least hide enough of what she does to give them an excuse not to do anything to help her, because that’s easier isn’t it? I bet they felt pretty bad about it all after the film ended (if that makes any sense)? Not that I liked any of them really, not my type at all. Pretty boring, dull, unpleasant people the lot of them.
2002 – Certificate: 18
Rating Details: Frequent bloody images of self-mutilation
This is an interesting, intense, French horror. It’s weird how a country that managed to invent a type of bread that’s so impractical it doesn’t actually fit into anyone’s shopping bag (stupid or what), also manages to produce some really great horrors. Its self-harming scenes are genuinely unsettling; it’s the sound and the look on Esther’s face more than just simply the gory bits. It has very good effects and it has to be said the acting is excellent too. I was glad I hadn’t eaten before watching it. The scene with the arm during the meal in the restaurant is a bit surreal though and sort of doesn’t quite fit in with the tone of the rest of the film.
No cats and no decapitations.
Recommended for people into slow, intense, quiet horror, with a high “eew factor”. Not recommended for people who get grossed out during first aid training courses.
Top badass moment? In the words of the Smiths, “I tried but I failed”. There’re no characters in this movie with enough redeeming qualities to qualify them as badass. They weren’t exactly bad, but none had that self-sacrificing ‘hero quality’ that I was looking for. Move along now, nothing to see here; just a lot of flawed humans.