The Class Blu-ray Review

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Reviewed by Gerard Magnier, 31st August 2009
‘The Class’ was released in 2008 and was directed by Laurent Cantet and is based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Francois Begaudeau. Begaudeau himself takes on the lead role, playing an exasperated teacher (Francois Marin), who encourages discussion driven learning in an underprivileged Parisian high school. His students are unruly and opposed to learning what they view as outdated and outmoded subjects. They challenge Marin daily and push him to the limits, forcing him to act under school protocol and against his real wishes to punish those he is desperately trying to help and educate. This is an incredibly engaging and engrossing piece that never feels as long as it’s hefty run-time (129mins). This fact is aided by the impressive display of raw acting talent by both Begaudeau and the young cast of unknowns. I got the feeling that I was watching something very special and dynamic occurring on screen. Cantet and Begaudeau somehow manage to keep the entire presentation completely believable and fluid – an amazing feat taking into consideration the fact that he was working with thirty or so young actors with little or no acting experience. The chemistry between Begaudeau and his students is very impressive indeed. With improvisation encouraged on set, this movie really serves to accurately depict the organic and evolving relationship that a teacher has with his class, while also providing a social commentary on the future of France and her education system. This movie comes highly recommended and is a welcomed break from the norm.

Filmed initially in high definition and then transferred to 35mm film stock (to offer a more cinematic feel), this presentation is somewhat of a mixed bag. For the most part it’s solid and has good colouring and impressive clarity. Softness does creep into the image at regular points which is a result of Cantet’s quick focusing techniques which are used when rapidly moving around the classroom. The uncompressed Dolby True HD soundtrack is an usual one in that it only features the left, right and center channels. As is to be expected the track is not overly exciting or impressive but does provide some nice directionality and those all important vocals are always crystal clear. As is the case with the video presentation, the audio track performs to its maximum capabilities with the limited material (and channels) it has to work with.

The extras package is comprehensive for a foreign language release and contains plenty of behind the scenes footage and commentary on how the movie was created. The omission of a feature commentary track and perhaps a “Where Are They Now” retrospective documentary are the only major omissions. This is a worthwhile package and while the audio and video presentations will not make their way into the demo category, they none the less do a fine job with the source material. But these are not the reasons why you would purchase such a movie; it’s the opportunity to witness one of those rare cinematic occasions where all the pieces fall into place to create a charming, intelligent and engrossing piece of film-making. Highly recommended.

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