Stars: Marina Foïs, Matthieu Lucci, Florian Beaujean
Writer-director Laurent Cantet returns to the classroom setting of his 2008 masterpiece docudrama ‘The Class’ with similarly involving results. The excellent Marina Foïs is Olivia Dezajet, a celebrated Paris-dwelling thriller writer, who temporarily relocates to La Ciotat, a deprived former shipbuilding town in the South of France, for the summer in order to hold a writing workshop for teens. Among the small group are Malika (Rammach), a politically idealistic Muslim girl, and her tormentor, the bright but troubled Antoine (Lucci). The group, who are privately dismissive of Olivia’s posh metropolitan ways, soon come around, and start working on a crime story together. Malika wants it to be set in the city’s proud industrial past. Antoine derides her plans as ‘noble’. Given to race-baiting, he also shocks his classmates with a disturbing first person account of a mass shooting from the shooter’s view. Later when he dismisses a book of Olivia’s he has read as ‘phony’ he is removed from the class. Olivia, however, clearly ruffled but intrigued by the young man, begins to further investigate Antoine’s life. Teaming up again with his co-writer of ‘The Class’ Robin Campillo (the writer and director behind last year’s extraordinary ‘120 Beats per Minute’) Cantet delivers an all-too timely portrait of France (and Europe) against the backdrop of the far right, and the troubled relationship between the elite and the dispossessed. Each character is given a chance to express their viewpoint, and as with ‘The Class’, the director is able to make scenes of characters merely debating around a table, the stuff of high drama. The young unprofessional cast are outstanding with newcomer Lucci particularly impressive as the charismatic, troubled Antione. The over-heated conclusion is a slight misstep, but this is intelligent, inquisitive and relevant cinema.