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The Class 

click to enlarge © 2009 SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
  • © 2009 Sony Pictures Classics

More real than many documentaries, Laurent Cantet's incredibly accurate, fly-on-the-classroom-wall film takes viewers through the tumults of pupil and professor alike during a year in an inner-city Paris high school. Cantet's camera acts as an invisible exchange student in the class of French instructor François Marin (François Bégaudeau, an actual teacher who also wrote the script), observing in lengthy sequences Marin's spectrum of subjects — a racially mixed group of shy brainiacs, gossip queens and too-cool-for-school footballers — and the range of emotions he must summon to engage them or, sometimes, to fend them off. Most impressive about The Class is its wonderfully unforced repartee, a testament to both the filmmakers' vision and the actors' gifts for extemporal banter. The script is a springboard for language that sprays like an automatic weapon, unconcerned with intent or target; one lesson on verb conjugation becomes a hearing on Marin's sexuality. A staunch defender of their free will, Marin still is not impervious to his students' challenges, and the film's closing comments are not idealistic, but rather concessions: Schoolteachers may have the world's toughest job, and even cool ones have a boiling point. — Noah Bonaparte Pais

The Class (PG-13)

Directed by Laurent Cantet

Starring François Bégaudeau

Canal Place Cinema, The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., third floor, 363-1117

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