Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Being And Having.

A quick one on Nicolas Philibert's Être et Avoir (To Be And To Have), the 2002 documentary that seemed to be everywhere, despite the fact that I really had no idea what it was about until I got it out, and previously I had continually got it confused with The Class, which I think is understandable considering they are both French films, both documentaries (ok, we all know The Class isn't actually a doco, but you get my point), and both from the noughties. 

This kid really reminded me of the irritating, precocious one from Spellbound.

I finally got around to watching it, quite some time ago (remember, mammoth hiatus with family in tow, so this is from, what, early April or something. Jeez, I gotta get up to date asap... no social outings for me!), and I did enjoy it. It is about a small primary school in rural France, in a town of only a couple of hundred inhabitants. Due to the size of the place the school only has one class, educating pupils from throughout the primary school realm. Lead character Georges Lopez is tasked with teaching them all, though he is shortly to retire. The film follows the class for a year, with all of the different personalities, problems, egos and levels on display.

There were a couple that were striking about the film. Firstly, nothing really happens. There is no great drama, this is not a doco about a major accomplishment, or a tragedy, or someone overcoming all obstacles. It is just a film about one man, a very good teacher, doing his job in somewhat trying circumstances - that is, trying to teach various age groups at the same time. So, he has six year olds playing up and running around, and he has ten year olds trying to prepare themselves for high school. And he has to let each of them be themselves, achieve appropriately, yet allow them to exist age appropriately. I don't envy the task. (Not least because I don't like kids... but that's beside the point.)

Secondly, and this is just kind of an extended aside, I guess, it really reminded me of Spellbound. I really liked Spellbound. But the characters and how they were built seemed very similar. Interesting, huh? They were both 2002 films as well, that would have taken a long time to produce, on opposite sides of the world, but they felt similar in some ways. I mean, Spellbound was about a bunch of kids aiming for a very specific goal, with all of the work and drama and tension (of the good kind! The good kind!) that goes along with it, but they... felt the same. It's hard to explain. And I'm in a bit of a rush.

Having said all of that, it's just a nice film. I don't think it was incredible. Lopez is incredible, yes, but the film, while nice to watch, easy to watch, enjoyable to watch, is also a little forgettable. The kind of film you think about when someone brings it up and go 'oh yeah, that was a nice film...' but you don't really remember that much about it except that you thought it was a nice film. But it is a nice film. It's worth watching. Seriously. 3.5 stars.

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