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Archive for the ‘Foreign Films’ Category

TheClassA fascinating look at the struggle between a french teacher and his class of inner-city students, The Class is the story of teacher and novelist François Bégaudeau and is based on some of his real experiences in the classroom.  In this film he plays a version of himself as he negotiates an entire school year with his racially mixed students from a tough Parisian neighborhood.  Having been at one a time a high school teacher, I was surprised to see how much is the same in American.  These students in France, like in the United States, think they know everything and the teacher has to be on his toes constantly in order to gain any respect from the students.  It is a balancing act between letting the students be themselves and giving them tools that will further them in the world and in the specific case of this film, possibly even give them the opportunity to have different lives as adults (i.e. get out of their neighborhoods).  As a teacher, François cannot lose his cool (or take anything personally) for it will put in jeopardy any progress that he has made with his students.  Being a teacher is in many ways being like a tight rope walker; it’s a balancing act.

What I found fascinating and different from my experiences as a teacher versus those of François is the structure and discipline that was enforced in the french school.  The principal demands total respect from the students (you stand up when an adult enters a room, you don’t sit down unless an adult asks you too), yet has student representatives attend almost all of the meetings between himself and the staff.  At these meetings the principal contradicts himself by doing very little to reprimand the girl representatives who are not showing any respect to the staff.  The scene is interesting because it then creates tension between Francois and the girls once he is back in the classroom.  We empathise for Francois throughout the course of the film, applauding and cringing at his many daily decisions meant to keep his head and those of his students above water.  A fascinating look at a different side of french culture that we as Americans rarely see.  And a film that may bring educators from different countries closer together.  4 out of 5 monkeys.

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Admiral (2008)I walked away from this film wanting there to be more passion between the two main characters, but then I started to question my American sensibilities.  Russia is not a culture full of joi de vivre, the focus is more on loyalty to one’s country; family and friendships are dispensable.  The filmmakers established this from the very beginning of the film (the sailors were there to die for the greater good), but it makes for one sweet and powerful army (one that we as American’s have been glad to have as allies on more than one occasion).  The story is of real life Russian naval commander Admiral Aleksander Kolchak (the eventual leader of the anti-Bolshevik White forces during the Russian Civil War) and his mistress Anna.  It is a story of war and devotion and Russian pride.  It made me want to do some research on the Russian revolution, but not much more.  I wanted to know the details behind these people, so I would really understand their place in history.  It peeked my interest in Russian history, which is a positive thing in and of itself.  I kept however, going back to the film Doctor Zhivago, it had such an essence of this film that I couldn’t help but feel that the authors had ripped it off a bit. And I don’t even like Doctor Zhivago that much.  2 and 3/4 monkeys.  Yes, I can do that.

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19042170Yesterday I had the pleasure of viewing a new film from Spain entitled The Anarchist’s Wife, courtesy of the Seattle Independent Film Festival.  The film, sponsored by the consulate of Spain (sweet!), was a love story above anything else set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.  Manuela is the young wife of Justo, a freedom fighter battling against Franco’s nationalists in Madrid, Spain.  As Americans we have no idea what it is like to have civil war on soil the way that Europeans experienced it; the utter destruction that these people faced is unbelievable.  When we had out civil war, we were still pioneers and didn’t have beautiful chapels and historic buildings to destroy.  The story revolves around Manuela’s struggle to keep it together while her world is falling apart around her.  These type of films often make me ponder what I would do in a similar situation.  Whether we are talking about the German or the Spanish situation, which side would you take?  Would you stand up for your ideals or would you do anything in your power to keep your family safe?  Would you join the side that you know is corrupt in order to survive?  Characters like those of Justo believe that if they did not fight, then the future for themselves and for their children wouldn’t be worth living in.  Throw a little passion in there and you have a great film (the leads plain and simple were just hot).  I was also pleasantly surprised to see the little girl (Ivana Baquero) from Pan’s Labyrinth in the film, doing a stellar job once again.  4 out of 5 monkeys

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amelieI will always watch this movie.  It is amazing on so many different levels, that I get excited just thinking about it.  Amelie is the story of a young woman who struggles between her reality in the “real” world and the world that she created as a child (and still often lives in as an adult). Now, THIS is something I can completely relate too.  Who hasn’t wanted to create their own safe little world to live in?  I live in my own little world called Fantastica about 45% of the time – it keeps me sane.

So much of the films greatness revolves around the commentary that she makes about the people around her (in her head of course, and we as the audience have the pleasure of observing it).  Why does Amelie specifically create this world do you say?  If you were very rarely shown affection in your life and never allowed to run and play like a normal child, wouldn’t you create a world of your own?  Throughout the story, Amelie continues to live mostly by her imagination until a series of events cause her to become a crusader for all of the sad people in her life.  Who better to be a crusader for pathetic souls than someone with an active inner life?  This is the center of what makes Amelie amazing and why people are attracted to her.    Oh yes, and it is a French film, so you will have to read while watching it (unless you are fluent in french of course).  Watch this film and create an inner life of your own.  Just don’t steal my name.  Rating:  5 out of 5 monkeys

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